Infographic: Who and what do people fantasize about?

A new survey asks Europeans and Americans to share their imaginary lives.

  • People who are overwhelmingly satisfied in their relationships fantasize other people
  • More of us daydream about strangers than exes or friends
  • Survey asks if we need to keep our fantasies to ourselves

It's everybody's dirty little secret. Which is to say it's not much of a secret at all. Even when we're in relationships, we fantasize about other people. We may feel guilty about it—are we betraying our significant others?—or not, chalking it up to being just one of those things we can't help but do. But what, if anything, does it say about our full-time relationships?

Superdrug Online Doctor asked 1,613 people from Europe and the U.S.—via online survey platforms Amazon Turk and Clickworker—how fantasizing works when you're already hooked-up. Their data is published in infographic form as Fantasizing About Other People.

All visualizations in this article are by Superdrug Online Doctor.

We suspect our partners are thinking of someone else

Over 70% of us assume our loved ones are imagining a little lovin' with someone else. Most convinced of all are American women, who are probably right. Americans in general, are more concerned than Europeans, who may be a bit more "sophisticated" about secret dalliances than Americans.

If you’re so happy, why fantasize?

The survey suggests that fantasizing is not an indicator of serious dissatisfaction with a partner. People who fantasize are overwhelmingly "satisfied" in their relationships, though it is true that those who don't fantasize report being "very satisfied." Are those non-fantasizers super-fulfilled? Maybe, but "satisfied" is hardly, well, "dissatisfied."

Should you admit your sexy daydreaming?

Probably you should, since those who tell their partners what's going on in those lusty noggins are 10% more satisfied than those who don't. (The negative impact of guilty secrets, maybe?)

So who do we fantasize about?

We mostly picture ourselves being intimate with strangers, by a wide margin—certainly, it's easier to think of them as perfectly attractive since we don't really know them and thus about any flaws they might have. Women are most strongly drawn to strangers. Men, the dirty dogs, think more about hooking up with exes and friends.

What do we fantasize about?

For men and women both, it's mostly about sex, though it's clearly more of a priority for men. Also true to stereotype, women do think more about cuddling and kissing, but not that much more. We're all so romantic. Or at least as many as 38.5% of us are.

The mysteries of lus...sorry...love

We're confusing creatures, and "the heart [or loins] wants what the heart [or loins] wants." Pretty much all experts agree, though, that honest communication in a relationship is important. The other side of the coin is that we have to be brave enough to find out if ours is strong enough to withstand the revelation of what's really been on our sneaky minds.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.