2010 Honda Civic SedanEnlarge Photo
We don't spend a lot of time reading scholarly journals here at TCC, but today, we've made an exception, because a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has proven what many men always believed -- namely, that guys who drive sporty cars get more, um, attention from the ladies. However, it doesn't work the same for gals with showy rides; apparently, men aren't quite as selective.
The study in question is called "Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System", and as you might guess from that Grad School 101 title, it looks at ways in which snazzy products draw the attention of potential mates. We found the good stuff around page 31, when researchers Vladas Griskevicius, Andrew W. Delton, Theresa E. Robertson, and Joshua M. Tybur surveyed 408 students a public university about their feelings toward potential mates.
The researchers told each participant in the study about a person of the opposite sex. And among the various details about said person's job and education, participants were told that the person had bought a new car. Some were told that the car was a Porsche Boxster, others were told that the car was a Honda Civic. Participants were then asked to rate this imaginary person on how desirable he or she would be as a long-term or short-term mate.
Women saw the Porsche owner as a wild-and-crazy guy -- the kind likely to be interested in a weekend fling:
Women perceived the man with the Porsche as opposed to the Honda as significantly more interested in short-term, uncommitted sexual relationships.... This finding suggests that women indeed accurately perceive men who conspicuously consume as more sexually unrestricted, relative to men who spend frugally.
And as seedy as that might sound, women still responded positively to the Porsche owner: female participants said they'd be more interested in a short-term relationship with him than with the guy who drove a Honda. Translation: as much as we make fun of guys with showy rides, it seems to work on the ladies.
What's worse -- at least for Honda owners -- is that the frugal driver didn't score better than the Porsche owner when it came to long-term relationships. In that portion of the study, the two guys were on equal footing.
When the brake shoe was on the other foot, researchers found that men didn't care at all what women drove. The car owned by the hypothetical woman in the survey had little or no impact on whether male participants in the study wanted to pursue long-term or short-term relationships. So basically, human beings think a lot like peacocks do: male peacocks have to do a lot to get the attention of females, but not vice versa.
Of course, this study raises all sorts of questions: Would the owner of a less-attractive Porsche Panamera have the same luck with women as the dude with the Boxster? How about a guy who drove a revved up Ford Mustang? And do the same stats apply for gays and lesbians and same-sex partners? The mind boggles.
If you're a fan of academic jargon and parenthetical citations, you can read the paper yourself in Google Doc form. If you're a straight guy in search of a weekend fling, though, we'd suggest you spend your time blinging up the Crown Vic -- because hey, you never know.