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Research Highlights

Dating Debunked: Study Reveals that Men and Women Perceive Sexual Intentions Differently, with Men Often Overestimating Women’s Desires and Women Underreporting Theirs

Research by NYU Stern Professor Priya Raghubir and co-author Isabelle Engeler provides guidelines for dating protocol when it comes to sex

Raghubir headshot

Be clear about your sexual intentions and beware of engaging in certain behaviors ... which may lead to misperceptions.

In a new study, Professor Priya Raghubir, chair of the Marketing Department at NYU Stern School of Business, and former NYU Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar Isabelle Engeler find a gap in how women and men interpret dating situations and intentions, which could lead to problematic misunderstandings between dating partners.
 
“We sought to set the record straight on prediction bias across sexes,” explains Professor Raghubir.  Building on existing research, the authors examined data on men’s and women’s reported sexual intentions. Across three experiments, they measured the “misprediction bias” between men and women. According to their findings:
  • Men overestimate women’s sexual intentions
  • Women underreport their own sexual intentions
  • Participants more accurately report their sexual intentions when they are asked about others’ intentions before their own
  • Certain dating behaviors, such as buying expensive jewelry, treating to an expensive dinner, or sending a dozen red roses, if they are less common for women than for men to perform, may inflate mens’ misinterpretation of women’s intentions
These findings have important implications for individuals who are dating as well as lessons for concerned parents of children who are dating. Professor Raghubir’s advice:
  • Men: “Temper your expectations when it comes to sex.  You’re likely to overestimate your partner’s intentions.”
  • Women: “Be clear about your sexual intentions and beware of engaging in certain behaviors (e.g., inviting a date to your apartment or placing a hand on your partner’s thigh), which may lead to misperceptions.”
The article, “Decomposing the Cross-Sex Misprediction Bias of Dating Behaviors: Do Men Overestimate or Women Underreport Their Sexual Intentions,” was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in July 2017.