Saturday, February 22, 2014

Misattribution of Arousal and Emotional States

It's a common enough plot line in movies and television:  woman meets man; but for some reason they form an instant aversion to each other, or it may be a one-way aversion.  (Think of the early running plot of Castle, for example.)  Now the question is, does this kind of thing happen very often, or might an initial aversion actually serve as a relish to heighten the subsequent feeling of love that eventually transpires?

I'm really asking, is it for real, or is it a misattribution of emotions that is going on?

The old saw, the opposites attract, is it true?  Consider the pairing of a conservative woman with a liberal guy.  Or a hyperneat obsessive guy meeting a feckless slob of a gal.  Would they be more likely to happen upon common ground because of their differences?

There is a phenomenon of physiological arousal in emotional states that calls for some pigeonholing to take place.  Why is the person experiencing this arousal?

Being annoying, or being unacceptably different, is one way of eliciting this arousal in the other person; but it's a risky strategy by far.  A less plot-worthy approach, but one likely to be effective, is to strategically position yourself where the person you would like to attract is experiencing arousal from some external stimulus.  Here's two bits of research that can bear on this:

Several years ago, Donald G. Dutton and Arthur P. Aron (1974) used a natural daunting setting that would induce physiological arousal. In this instance, an attractive female interviewer encountered young male participants after they walked across either of two different styles of bridges. One bridge was a very scary (arousing) suspension bridge, which was very narrow and suspended above a deep ravine. The second bridge was much safer and more stable than the first.

At the end of each bridge, an attractive young woman met the participants. She gave the participants a survey to fill out and a number to call if they had any other further questions. The purpose of doing this was to find which group of males were more likely to call the female experimenter later on.

In general, the guys who walked across the scary bridge were far more likely to call the woman, some even asking her for a date!  (Confident extraverts, apparently!)  The authors interpreted this as due to their having experienced more arousal as a result of walking across the precarious suspension bridge. They had misattributed their greater arousal from the bridge as due to being more attracted towards the woman. In general, when asking the males why they had cited reasons having to do with her attractive face, body, and eyes. Or, frankly, because they found her to be sexy!  Yet, none of the participants attributed their feelings as due to having crossed the bridge!  Lucky girl: sometimes it pays to be in the right situation!

In another experiment by Meston and Frohlich (2003), they studied the effects of residual nervous system arousal on perceptions of sexual attraction.   was studied.  Using 165 subjects (135 females), they approached individuals at amusement parks as they were either waiting to begin or as they had just gotten off a roller-coaster ride.  Participants were shown a photograph of an average attractive, opposite-gendered individual and asked to rate the individual on attractiveness and dating desirability.  These persons being questioned were also asked to rate their seatmates' levels of attractiveness. 

The results partially supported the predictions that excitation of arousal would be transferred.  If the males or females were riding with a nonromantic partner, ratings of attractiveness and dating desirability toward the photographed individual were higher among persons exiting than entering the ride. Among persons riding with a romantic partner, there were no significant differences in attractiveness or dating desirability ratings between persons entering and exiting the ride.

So what may we conclude from this?  If you wish to have another person become attracted to you, position yourself in some potentially arousing situation with someone whom you would like to attract.  For example, Halloween Horror Houses (act suitably scared so that he might put his arms around you), roller coasters (scream fetchingly and perhaps hold him close), or engaging in minor mischief.  For example, when I was back in school, I enlisted a boy to help me with gnome-kidnapping!   (Note to N.O.P.D: the wooden hostage was returned unharmed the very next evening.)*

*Can I patent this approach?


TexWisGirl said...

love the gnome-napping. :)

Mike said...

So, do you want to go bungee jumping with me? You go first.

Big Sky Heidi said...

As I read it, if you want to turn on a guy to you, do something risky with him?

bakku-shan said...

It would seem that giving him relaxation, even a "release," would cause him to be more attracted to you.

Anonymous said...

An interesting pair of experiments. The researchers must have had fun doing them. For the poor girl on the bridge, not so much.

Atomic Dog said...

So being on scary bridges makes women more attractive to guys. But do women find guys more attractive when they're in thst kind of situation?

Bilbo said...

I am perfectly capable of finding women attractive without the use of bridges. Of course, tank tops are a plus, but forget the bridges.