Here is some hot summer sex research! For more scholarly information, feel free to read George Loewenstein and Dan Ariely’s research Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making.
By Brian Alexander
updated June. 20, 2008
You may have known this all along, but now it has been demonstrated scientifically: bikinis make men stupid.
This month’s issue of the Journal of Consumer Research features a paper titled “Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice,” which is a neuroeconomist’s (definition in a moment) way of saying that men don’t make good decisions while checking out pretty girls in bikinis.
Hence automakers’ penchant for placing leggy models in front of absurdly priced cars at auto shows, and the casting of three scantily clad women on that “Republica Deportiva” show on Univision which I find myself watching though I don’t care whether Chivas defeated Rayados del Monterey.
Virgil wrote of the phenomenon 2,000 years ago when he created the epic poem “The Aeneid.” When Venus convinces Vulcan to make some special armor, she
…threw her snow-white arms around him
As he held back, caressing him here and there,
And suddenly he caught fire — the same old story,
The flame he knew by heart went running through him,
Melting him to the marrow of his bones…
She knew her beauty’s power.
But though we might recognize this intuitively, there is some very important insight about sex and relationships, not to mention economics, to be gained from this latest research.
In the “bikini” experiments, Belgian researchers conducted a series of tests on 358 young men. In one test, the men looked at images of women in bikinis or lingerie and at images of landscapes. In another, some men were given T-shirts to handle and assess while others were given bras. Another batch of men was assigned to watch a commercial featuring men running over landscapes while other guys watched a video of “hundreds of young women, dressed in bikinis running across hills, fields and beaches.” (No word on whether they used “Baywatch” slo-mo).
In each test, the researchers offered the men the choice between being paid 15 euros immediately or bargaining for a larger sum that they’d be willing to wait a week or a month for. In all the tests, the men exposed to the sexy imagery or bras cited delayed reward amounts that were lower than the amounts cited by the men who saw sex-neutral imagery. For example, while a man who looked at landscapes might have demanded an extra payment of 10 euros a month later (totaling 25), the bikini-gazer might have been willing to settle for five extra (totaling 20). The sexy imagery did not work on all men all the time, but, as a group, men with sex on their brains settled for a less lucrative bargain, suggesting they were more impulsive and valued immediate gratification more than the controls.
“I observed in my studies that men are more likely to pick a smaller immediate reward over a larger later reward,” Bram van den Bergh, the study’s lead author, tells me. “Hence I do think that men might spend money on something they might otherwise not purchase. Men would become more impulsive in any domain after exposure to sexual cues.”