Positive, romantic thoughts could produce positive, romantic outcomes while dating.
- Fear of rejection, self-doubt, and anxiety are just some of the obstacles humans need to overcome to make a meaningful, romantic connection with another person.
- According to a 2020 project by a group of psychologists at the University of Rochester (and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya), humans see possible romantic partners as a lot more attractive if they go into the interaction with a "sexy mindset."
- Across three separate studies, this team discovered that this sexual activation helps people initiate relationships by inducing them to project their desires onto prospective partners.
What encourages us to seek out potential partners? What interactions encourage us to keep dating, despite the possibility of being rejected? The sexual behavioral system of humans has evolved over millennia and has been the topic of many scientific studies over the years. The concept of dating and pursuing romantic partners has been a curiosity to everyone, it seems, with lists like this one from Mental Floss detailing what dating was like throughout the centuries.
Ultimately, romantic "success" depends on our ability to target the right potential partner whom we not only find attractive but who is also attracted to us. Fear of rejection, self-doubt, and anxiety are just some of the obstacles humans need to overcome to make a meaningful, romantic connection with another person.
Being in a frisky mood improves your chances with potential romantic partners
The right mood could land you the right date, according to a new study.
Credit: BlueSkyImage on Shutterstock
According to a 2020 study by a group of psychologists at the University of Rochester (and the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya), humans see possible romantic partners as a lot more attractive if they go into the interaction with a "sexy mindset."
Harry Reis, professor of psychology and the Dean's Professor in Arts, Sciences & Engineering at Rochester, and Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya) have dedicated decades of their lives to studying the intricate dynamics of sexual attraction and human sexual behavior.
In a previous study, the pair discovered that when people feel greater certainty about a romantic partner's interest, they put more effort into seeing that person again. Additionally, this study found people will rate the possible partner as more "sexually attractive" if they knew the person was interested in seeing them again.
For this project, Reis and Birnbaum, along with their team, examined what would happen if a person's sexual system is activated by exposing them to brief sexual cues that induced a thought process that included the potential for sex or heightened attraction.
Across three separate studies, the team discovered that this sexual activation helps people initiate relationships by inducing them to project their desires onto prospective partners.
Study one: Immediacy
In the first study, 112 heterosexual participants (between the ages of 20-32) who were not in a romantic relationship were randomly paired with an unacquainted participant of the opposite sex. Participants introduced themselves to each other (speaking about their hobbies, positive traits, career plans, etc.), all while being recorded.
The team then coded the recorded interactions and searched for nonverbal expressions of immediacy (such as close proximity, frequent eye contact, smiles, etc.) that could indicate interest in starting a romantic relationship.
In the study, the team determined that the participants exposed to a sexual stimulus before the meeting (versus those exposed to a neutral stimulus) exhibited more immediacy behaviors towards their potential partners and also perceived the partners as more attractive and/or more interested in them.
Study two: Interest
In the second study, 150 heterosexual participants (between the ages of 19-30) who were not in a romantic relationship served as a control for the potential partner's attractiveness and reactions. All participants in study two watched the same pre-recorded video introduction of a potential partner of the opposite sex. They then introduced themselves to the partner while being filmed themselves.
The researchers found that the activation of the sexual system led to participants viewing the potential partner as more attractive as well as more interested in them.
Study three: How it all ties together
In the third and final study, the team investigated whether a partner's romantic interest could explain why sexual activation impacts how we view other people's romantic interest in ourselves.
In this study, 120 single heterosexual participants (between the ages of 21-31) interacted online with another participant who was actually an attractive opposite-sex member of the research team. This was a casual "get-to-know-you" kind of interaction. The participants rated their romantic interest in the other person as well as that person's attractiveness and interest in them.
Again, the team found that sexual activation increased a person's romantic interest in the other person, which, in turn, predicted that the other person would then be more interested in a romantic partnership as well.
The takeaway: Positive, romantic thoughts could produce positive, romantic outcomes.
The basis of this multi-study theory is simple: Having active sexual thoughts arouses romantic interest in a prospective partner and often leads to an optimistic outlook on dating.
"Sexual feelings do more than just motivate us to seek out partners. It also leads us to project our feelings onto the other person," said Reis to Eurekalert.
Reis goes on to explain, "...the sexual feelings need not come from the other person; they can be aroused in any number of ways that have nothing to do with the other person."
Most people don't know what they're passionate about.
- A niche, in terms of the economy and what you do for a living, is often considered a special talent or service that speaks to you on a different, secondary level. Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR's "Planet Money" argues that when a niche finds an audience and becomes a successful business, it evolves into its own primary economy.
- For most people, finding something you're passionate about can take a long time. The search should happen concurrently with your current job and life, not in place of them.
- It won't be easy and there will have to be sacrifices, Davidson says. But when it's something that you can't live without doing, then it is worth investing the time and effort.
There are scientifically proven ways you can improve your self-esteem, right now.
- Low self-esteem can lead you to feel worthless, unlovable, and unwanted.
- Feelings of low self-esteem have been directly linked to aggression, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, and a general lower quality of life.
- By changing some of the things you do every day (how you dress, your posture, how you think of yourself), you can develop more confidence and higher levels of self-worth.
What is low self-esteem?
People who struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are also susceptible to developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Low self-esteem (and a lack of confidence in yourself) often leads to feeling bad about ourselves and our lives. People who struggle with feelings of worthlessness hold themselves in lower regard, often feel unlovable, unwanted, and incompetent.
It's very common in this situation to have a fragile sense of self that is often driven by feelings of worthlessness and an unmanageable lack of confidence.
This type of hypersensitivity can plunge someone into a state of profound depression with one single event that, for others, would not affect them very much.
Common symptoms of low self-esteem can include:
- Being unable to trust your own opinion, always thinking someone else's opinions are better.
- Not voicing your opinion or feeling confident enough in your ideas to share them.
- Being afraid to take on challenges with the fear that you will not be able to overcome them.
- Thinking you will "fail" or "be a failure" if you don't accomplish something (even if it's unrealistic).
- Being hard on yourself but lenient with others, even in situations very similar to your own.
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks, feeling emotionally drained.
- Going to extremes (either working yourself so hard and overachieving or hardly putting any effort in and underachieving).
- Pouring yourself into work to avoid the strain and fear that comes with more social situations like relationships and friendships.
How does low self-esteem affect our day-to-day lives?
According to a 2005 study published in the SAGE Journals, low self-esteem is directly related to aggression and antisocial behaviors. Low self-esteem is also linked to delinquency, particularly in young adults.
People who struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are also susceptible to developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Eating disorders are also common in individuals with low self-esteem issues, particularly emotional binge-eating.
A 2006 study by the University of Wisconsin, Madison also linked low self-esteem during adolescence to poor health, criminal behavior, and limited economic prospects during adulthood. The results of this particular study prove that self-esteem is an important construct that can predict real-world outcomes (in education, job success, lifestyle, and overall health) in people who struggle with it.
How to retrain your brain to replace low self-esteem with confidence, according to science and philosophy.
How you dress, the music you listen to and how you expect to be treated by others are scientifically linked to your self-esteem levels.
Wear black and invest in nice-smelling cologne or perfume.
How you dress (and how you smell) can make a difference. According to this 2015 study that assessed what colors people associate with different personality traits, black was voted as a "confident" color that makes people think of attractiveness, intelligence, and confidence.
In this 2014 study, 128 men were divided into three groups: one group dressed in suits, another in casual attire and the last group dressed in sweatpants.
They were then asked to roleplay a negotiation scene for getting a raise at work. The results of this study prove the men dressed in suits (dressed for success) scored higher levels of dominance, job performance, and confidence, which ultimately resulted in them getting better negotiation deals in the roleplaying scenes.
This 2009 study by researchers at the School of Biological Sciences (University of Liverpool) proved that how we smell greatly affects our self-confidence. Not only that but how we smell can also have an impact on how others view and treat us, which can also have a positive impact on our self-esteem.
Listen to bass-heavy music.
Did you know that the type of music you most frequently listen to can subconsciously be driving your insecurity? This 2014 study by Northern University explains that music with a louder baseline can make you feel more powerful, dominant, determined, and motivated.
Take more photos (including selfies).
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have conducted a study that proves taking photos of yourself (or seeing yourself in a mirror, paying attention to the way you look) can actually raise your self-confidence.
In this study, a group of 41 students took three types of photos every day: one of themselves smiling, a photo of something that made them happy that day, and a photo of something they believed could make someone else happy.
Each type of photo had positive effects on the participant's self-esteem levels, but the photo they took of themselves reported the highest levels of increasing self-confidence.
Talking to yourself in the second person will help improve your confidence.
While it's important to take note of how we think about ourselves (because this says a lot about our self-confidence), did you know that positive self-talk (actually talking out loud to yourself in a positive way) is scientifically proven to help with self-esteem?
If you have ever tried to psych yourself up for a job interview with the phrase "you've got this!", you're on the right track, according to science.
A 2014 European Journal of Social Psychology study had half of the participants in the study talking to themselves positively (in the first person), while the other half were told to talk to themselves positively in the second person (using "you" statements).
The people who spoke to themselves in the second person reported higher levels of motivation and confidence in themselves after these exercises. Researchers suggest the reason for this is because the use of "you" reminds us of receiving advice, praise, and encouragement from other people instead of just ourselves.
What matters most is how you expect other people to view you, not how they actually view you, according to UCL researchers.
"Low self-esteem is a vulnerability factor for numerous psychiatric problems including eating disorders and depression." says lead researcher Dr. Geert Jan Will. "In this study, we identified exactly what happens in the brain when self-esteem goes up and down."
By understanding what happens in the brain when self-esteem raises and lowers, we can better understand when this happens and pinpoint what caused the increases or decreases.
The results of this study proved that social prediction errors (when we expect to have positive interactions or approval with other people but don't) were the key to determining if self-esteem went up or down.
Self-awareness and positive affirmations help.
Confidence can come from being honest with yourself, but that is much harder to accomplish when your feelings of worthlessness are telling you there are no redeeming qualities about yourself.
According to new brain-imaging studies published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, when people practice self-affirmations (positive self-statements), the brain's self-processing (medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex) and valuation cortex (ventral striatum and ventral medial prefrontal cortex) are both activated.
The results of these scans highlight the positive neural processes that happen when we self-affirm, proving that self-affirmations work.
Infidelity, an inherently selfish behavior, has been analyzed by researchers to help us understand why people cheat in relationships.
- Results of a 2005 study show that there is a significant difference between cheaters and non-cheaters when it comes to the Big Five model of personality traits.
- Poor self control, selfishness, anger, boredom, and attention-seeking are the most common reasons a person is unfaithful in their relationship.
- However, a 2018 study suggests that even infidelity, which is inherently a selfish behavior, is more than it seems - requiring an in-depth look at both the personality traits in each person in the relationship as well as the dynamic between them.
"The Big Five" personality trait model - a brief explanation
What personality traits make a person more (or less) likely to cheat on a spouse?
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Defining the human psyche and explaining human behaviors has been a goal of psychologists and researchers for decades.
Pioneer psychologist Gordon Allport (1897–1967) once compiled a list of 4,500 different personality traits he believed explained the human condition. Raymond Cattel (1905–1998), a British-American psychologist best known for his research into intrapersonal psychology, later explained a shorter personality model with 16 different types of personality traits.
In the 1970s, we were presented with the model we know today as the Big Five. The Big Five was created by two independent research teams who took different approached to their studies of human behavior and arrived at the exact same result.
The first team was led by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae at the National Institutes of Health. The second was led by Warren Norman of University of Michigan and Lewis Goldberg of University of Oregon.
The Big Five (acronym OCEAN):
- Openness to experience (a willingness to try new activities)
- Conscientiousness (an awareness of your actions and the consequences of behavior)
- Extroversion (outgoing, socially confident behaviors)
- Agreeableness (cooperative, friendly and likable behaviors)
- Neuroticism (anxious, over-thinking, worrying behaviors)
In 1998, Oliver John of Berkeley Personality Lab and Veronica Benet-Martinez of UC, Davis created what is known as the "Big Five Inventory" - a 44 item questionnaire that measures a person based on the Big Five factors and then divides those factors into personality facets.
These factors are measured on a spectrum - a person may be highly extroverted or highly introverted, or somewhere in between. You can see a copy of the Big Five Inventory here.
How does our personality affect our likelihood of cheating in a relationship?
In 2005, researchers Tricia Orzeck and Esther Lung conducted a study where participants voluntarily answered a questionnaire on personality traits about themselves and their monogamous partners. A total of 45 males and 59 females rated themselves and their partners (with a total of 208 people being involved in the study).
The results of this study proved that there is a significant difference between cheaters and non-cheaters when it comes to the Big Five model of personality traits.
This was further explained by a study in 2018, where data from two separate studies looked at the personality traits and relationship dynamics of new married couples. Both studies lasted 3 years in length and examined the associations between personality and infidelity.
Results of this study showed these were the couples who were most likely to experience infidelity in their marriage:
- Wives who had high (compared to low) extroversion traits were more likely to be unfaithful.
- Wives who were partnered with a husband who had high (versus low) neuroticism and/or extroversion traits were more likely to be unfaithful.
- Husbands who were partnered with a wife who had high (versus low) neuroticism and/or extroversion traits were more likely to be unfaithful.
- Husbands who were partnered with a wife who had high (versus low) narcissism traits were more likely to be unfaithful.
The results of this study suggest that one person's personality traits aren't enough to determine their likelihood of infidelity. Instead, infidelity requires an in-depth look at both the personality traits in each person in the relationship as well as the dynamic between them.
Why do we cheat?
According to a 2013 poll of 1535 American adults, having an affair is considered "more morally wrong" than gambling, human cloning, and medical testing on animals. And yet - so many people still experience heartbreak from infidelity in their relationships.
Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel wanted to understand why people cheat in relationships.
"Why do people do this? Why do people who have often been faithful for decades one day cross a line they never thought they would cross? What's at stake? How do we make sense of this and how do we grow from that?"
In her book "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity", Perel, who has worked with couples for 33 years, takes a look at infidelity not in an evidence-based scientific way, but from a sociological, anthropological angle.
While it's very common to have fantasies about being with someone other than your partner, not everyone who does this takes the step across that line to cheat on their partner. In fact, according to a 2001 study, 98% of men and 80% of women have admitted to fantasizing about someone other than their partner at least occasionally.
This is human nature, to be curious - but what makes a person go from naturally curious to morally ambiguous and cross the line to infidelity? While personality traits and the dynamic of your relationship play key roles, there is a lot of speculation on why people cheat.
Is technology to blame for "making cheating easier"?
Many people speculate that the surge in technology (dating apps and websites such as Ashley Madison, which targets married couples) may be one of the biggest reasons infidelity happens.
However, according to research conducted by Dr. Justin Lehmiller in 2015, the prevalence of cheating isn't any higher today than it was 20 years ago before the introduction of dating websites and apps.
Instead, psychologists have narrowed down some of the most common reasons people give for cheating on their spouses, which include:
- Poor self-control or not feeling committed to the relationship: impulsive behaviors, not thinking about the consequences of your actions and lacking commitment to your current romantic partner.
- Selfishness or anger: putting your needs above your partner's needs, not caring if your actions hurt those around you or wanting some form of "punishment" for your partner.
- Attention-seeking: not feeling fulfilled in a current relationship, not having emotional or physical needs met.
- Boredom and insecurity: feeling insecure about yourself, needing validation or wanting a "thrill," even if it comes from self-destructive behaviors such as cheating.
These motives vary from how you view yourself to how you view your relationship and the context of the situation at hand. When it comes to putting a label on infidelity, there is very rarely just one factor involved. It's never just about a person's personality traits, or the dynamic in the relationship - it's a combination of personality, events, and circumstance.
One in five people have ended sex because of bad bedroom talk. Here's the data and science on how to do it right.
- One in five people in a new study admit that they have stopped sex cold because of the dirty talk.
- 90% of the participants felt aroused by the right erotic talk with their partner.
- Dirty talk activates the erogenous zones of the brain: the hypothalamus and amygdala.
By electrifying our most powerful sex organs, our brains, research has shown that provocative conversation has the ability to add serious sizzle to our sex lives. Yet, it's a highly subjective form of bedroom art that comes in many varieties. In fact, one in five people admit that they have stopped sex cold because of the dirty talk. A chilling statistic.This is according to a new study conducted by Superdrug Online Doctor that looked into the sex talk preferences of 990 participants in the United States and Europe ages 18-83, all of whom had talked sexually with a partner. And while 90% of the participants felt aroused by the right erotic talk with their partner, clearly the stakes of hitting a goldilocks heat level in sexual language are very high.
What’s hot and what’s not?
Source: Superdrug Online Doctor survey
Participants said that a safe bet is not to start off with talk that's too aggressive and too intimate too soon. What the study recommends is beginning slowly with suggestive, flirty questions paired with light touching. Perhaps the best received form of dirty talk is simply complimenting your partner's performance as well as articulating what you want your partner to do to you, or what you want to do to your partner. "Respondents were quick to pay appreciation to times when a partner articulated a sexual request or desire, with more people reporting that these phrases were a turn-on than any other form of dirty talk," reports the study.
Another relatively well-received form of erotic bedroom language is moaning. Forty-four percent of participants said that it turned them on the most. This is because the sound, according to the study, "produces a physical and tangible representation of pleasure and offers a sign to someone's partner that the interaction is enjoyable." They're letting you know for sure that you're doing something right.
The biggest point of contention in the survey was nicknames, particularly of the derogatory variety (e.g. "whore", "daddy"). These were the number one turn-off for some respondents, yet they were the number three turn-on for others. When it comes to the pet names, the message seems to be to proceed cautiously, starting off lighter ("sweetheart", "baby"). You can always add spice, but if you cross the line you risk obliterating the mood and finding yourself among that unfortunate 1-in-5 statistic cited earlier. Setting boundaries through honest conversation is the safest way to navigate these waters.
Source: Superdrug Online Doctor survey
So, where do people learn the language of good dirty talk? According to 61% of the respondents, it was inspired by spur-of-the-moment events such as what their partner was doing at the time. The next top inspirations for men and women were previous partners and pornography.
Thirty-five percent of the respondents said that they had drawn on dirty talk from a previous sexual encounter. (Un-shockingly, 61% of participants said they would be annoyed if they knew their partner had done that.) Pornography was another popular inspiration, particularly for men who at 45% were twice as likely as women to borrow dirty language from porn.
This is your brain on dirty talk
So, why does dirty talk turn us on? It has to do with a few "erogenous zones" in the brain that effect how we respond to sex talk and sexual stimulation. Sex drive and testosterone production originate in two parts of the hypothalamus: the preoptic area and the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Dirty talk stimulates both of these areas.
"People very much enjoy dirty talking because it activates all regions of your brain while your body is also getting stimulated," sex and neuropsychology expert Daryl Cioffi told Medical Daily in 2015. "Similar areas of the brain are touched upon during dirty talk as when we curse. So, very often as your brain sees it, the dirtier the better."
Another important area in the brain is the amygdala, a fear center that plays a large role in the excitement and pleasure experienced during sex. Submissiveness in bed, such as being called names, can stimulate the amygdala by making a participant feel vulnerable.
Essentially, provocative language is perceived as sex through suggestion. It satisfies our desire for intimate and vulnerable conversation, as well as a lust for sexual activity in a way that helps partners bond mentally, physically and emotionally. Erotic language provides a multifaceted sexual experience that penetrates beyond physical touch by stimulating our minds.