December 27, 2003
@ 09:55 PM

An article in the Economist lets us know that research has confirmed that men lose their fiscal prudence in the presence of attractive women

Over 200 young men and women participated in the study, which was divided into three parts. In the first, the participants were asked to respond to nine specific choices regarding potentially real monetary rewards. (At the end of the session, they could roll dice to try to win one of their choices, which would be paid by an appropriately post-dated cheque issued by the university.) In each case, a low sum to be paid out the next day was offered against a higher sum to be paid at a specified future date. Individual responses were surprisingly consistent, according to Dr Wilson, so the “pre-experiment” threshold of each participant was easy to establish.

The volunteers were then asked to score one of four sets of pictures for their appeal: 12 attractive members of the opposite sex; 12 non-lookers; 12 beautiful cars; or 12 unimpressive cars. Immediately after they had seen these images, they were given a new round of monetary reward choices.

As predicted, men who had seen pictures of pretty women discounted the future more steeply than they had done before—in other words, they were more likely to take the lesser sum tomorrow. As Dr Wilson puts it, it was as though a special “I-want-that-now” pathway had been activated in their brains. After all, the money might come in handy immediately. No one else was much affected. (Women did seem to be revved up by nice cars, a result the researchers still find mystifying. But the statistical significance of this finding disappeared after some routine adjustments, and in any case previous work has suggested that women are more susceptible to displays of wealth than men are.)

I guess this explains Abercrombie & Fitch's "alleged" hiring practices. It's always interesting to see stuff you've long taken for granted backed up by research especially observing how the experiments are confucted.