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College Guys Will Remember the Pretty Ones

• December 30, 2010 • 5:00 AM

In a recent experiment, women who showed interest in college-aged men were more likely to be remembered if they were deemed attractive.

From the “Studies That Should Surprise No One” file: A new study in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that college-aged men were more likely to remember whether a woman showed sexual interest in them when she was deemed attractive, dressed provocatively and expressed her attraction toward them. Who’da thunk it?

The guys were shown full-body photographs of collegiate women who were signaling either attraction or rejection — for instance, a frown of rejection versus a pleasant smile. The researchers found that the average young man demonstrated an excellent memory of the women’s initial interest. But the men remembered best when the woman was broadly appealing to them in looks, dress and attitude.

As head author Teresa Treat put it, “Misremembering a woman’s level of sexual interest could prompt some men to make an unwanted sexual advance and become frustrated when a woman doesn’t respond as anticipated.” (Sure, been there.)

She went on: “Conversely, college-aged men who report more frequent serious romantic relationships with women show better memory for college-aged women’s sexual-interest and rejection cues. This suggests that tracking and remembering a partner’s emotions may play a role in the initiation and maintenance of a serious romantic relationship.”

We hope everyone is writing this down.

The Cocktail Napkin appears at the back page of each issue of Miller-McCune magazine, highlighting current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.

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Matt Palmquist
A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Matt Palmquist, a former Miller-McCune staff writer, began his career at daily newspapers such as The Oregonian and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In 2001, he became a staff writer at the SF Weekly in San Francisco, where he won several local and national awards. He also wrote a humorous current affairs column called "The Apologist," which he continued upon leaving the Weekly and beginning a freelance career.

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