Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

Remind a man of love and his behavior changes in minutes

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 20, 2008

gallantprincessLeave it to the French to figure out how to make men gallant. In BLONDES I describe a touching French experiment in which a strapping young man, code-named Antoine, successfully picks up women on the street and at dance clubs. That study was led by French psychologist Nicolas Gurguen, and now Dr Gurguen and his colleagues have made another fun discovery.

In the current study, 253 male and female participants were approached on the street by researchers recruited by Gurguen. Approximately half were asked to think about a piece of music they love. The others were asked to remember “love episodes” — the most romantic moments in their lives: their first kiss, the blissful initial months of a love affair, the cherished times in their current relationships, etc. In psychological parlance, these latter participants were “primed” to think of love.

After being released, the participants continued walking, and were later stopped, seemingly randomly, by a female stranger asking for money to buy a bus ticket. The stranger, of course, was complicit in the study.

The results? Men who had been primed to think of love were three times more likely to help out a “damsel in distress” than men who were primed to think about their favorite music. Only 13 percent of the music-primed men gave money compared to 38 percent of the love-primed guys.

Interestingly, love priming didn’t have any effect on women’s generosity, which leads the researchers to speculate that cultural and evolutionary impulses trigger generosity in men alone. Why? For one, women value wealth and chivalry in men more than men do in women, so men in love may be unconsciously more generous than women in love — and with any woman, not just their beloved. (There’s also a neurological basis here. As detailed in BLONDES, lust and love activate and deactivate various regions of the brain.) Of course, it would be more interesting to see the study conducted with a variety of stangers in need — old ladies, young men, people of different races, and so on.

In any case, one lesson from the French study is that it behooves charities and advertisers to induce feelings of love in men. Open men’s hearts and their wallets follow suit — at least for a few minutes. Of course, Frenchwomen have known this all along.

27 Responses

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  1. Mario said, on December 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Just wondering — when women are primed to think of romantic love, what’s the effect? Anyone care to speculate?

  2. Callan said, on December 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I’d idly speculate women aren’t love primed because perhaps they always operate at a level of love/social connectedness. Its not that it fails to prime, rather they already are primed. As a man I’d say men typically operate in a world experienced without a sense of love/material connectedness.

  3. adm531 said, on December 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    great article. Keep it up. i can only hope my blog becomes as popular as yours.

  4. featherbookseries said, on December 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I’m a blonde, and I believe in the power of it 😉

  5. featherbookseries said, on December 20, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    And as far as the phenomenon of speculating, setting women up to fail so to speak. A lot of women get built up by the media to expect unreal expectations (take the heinous book Twilight for example). It’s a little unfair towards man. After reading that book i was pissed at my husband for no reason, unfortunate… truly a trava-sham-mockery

    not sure if that pertains to the study directly, but it’s something to think about. we’re rather negative when primed to love. it sucks…

  6. Mario said, on December 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Featherbookseries — What you say is interesting. An article appeared this week, and your comment reminded me of it:

    The article didn’t single out women, but the gist of it is that romantic comedies make people unhappy in their relationships, as they encourage unrealistic expectations.

  7. Esa said, on December 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

    thnx 4 ur post. Btw, ur blog seems so great. How did u made them?

  8. amaya said, on December 21, 2008 at 1:16 am

    thanks for this – very interesting. i am curious what the results of a similar study would be in America – especially in New York where it seems that the regions of the brain activated by love, not lust, remain dormant and heavily distracted/dominated by the self-obsessed and self-serving regions.

  9. […] figured out how to make men generous Filed under: Culture — lukemarshall @ 8:15 pm Remind them of their capacity of […]

  10. Al said, on December 21, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Very interesting research outcome/conclusion…hmm. Thanks for sharing.

  11. truthwalker said, on December 21, 2008 at 3:42 am


  12. y3 said, on December 21, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Thanks for Sharing

  13. fantasizer said, on December 21, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Totally agree with this study whether its french men or do tend to become really generous when in love..they completely splurge on their lady love..and shower her with loads of gifts..and of course most ladies know this secret

  14. […] of men. This is something of a given, but French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen (who also researched men’s unconscious behavior after thinking about love) has found empirical evidence that men — at least on unconscious level — are more […]

  15. […] on January 5th, 2009 Psychologist Nicolas Guguen, who conducted experiments on how makeup and thoughts of love change men’s behavior has recently turned his attention from men to dogs. More specifically, he and his colleagues […]

  16. mkdiehl said, on January 8, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    If you’ve been in a relationship a long time, and the romance is cooled a bit, get your boyfriend/husband to talk about his first love, encourage his fondest memories (no jealousy), then an hour later suggest he take you out for a really nice dinner. Anyone who tries this, send results.

  17. […] Gurguen — who has studied the sexual benefits of makeup, dog ownership, and other social cues- has now added breasts to his […]

  18. […] Gurguen — who has studied the sexual benefits of makeup, dog ownership, and other social cues- has now added cup size to his […]

  19. yvonne said, on March 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I was in love once, i really taught this guy was the one. He ended our relationship for no reason. Is it in a womans head when in love that this person they love is the one? I still think of him. Does love exist. My friends in relationship treat their guys very bad and it seems to work why is this so? why are nice people single? Can we pick the ones we fall in love with or does it sciencifically just happen?

  20. Callan said, on March 11, 2009 at 3:56 am

    Well, I think you actually have to share similar goals or a similar/same passion. Being nice doesn’t mean you actually like the same things/are intertwined.

    I’d suggest being less nice, not to be mean to anyone, but to make sure you both share the same goals/passions. Just be less nice to cut through the day to day distractions and get to the important truth – even if it happens to be an unpleasant truth.

    Well, I guess that all sounds good in theory…

  21. Callan said, on March 11, 2009 at 4:15 am

    And good luck! Hope you fare well!

  22. Laurie Kendrick said, on March 18, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I think mutual attraction covers a lot of territory. Sure, there’s the physical attraction but we’ve all heard the adage that somewhere, there’s a guy dating a beautiful woman and he’s tired of her crap. Reverse genders and you get the same thing.

    Here’s what I think–for what it’s worth: a good relationship must consist of common goals, values, ideals, religious tenets (if those apply) and there must be respect. Skydiving is a mutual interest that might be shared and that interest may bring you together, but it won’t keep you together. For sustenance in a relationship, I’m a firm beleiver that there has to be far more commonality. Of course, there will be the occasional pitfall and you won’t always agree on stripes vs. paisley print, but by the time the relationship enters a phase of critical mass, ideally, you should have all the others things on the table—how many kids you’ll have; how you’ll raise the kids, where you should live, how you’ll celebrate the holidays, shared goals of saving and spending money; the amount of peripheral family involvement in your lives and that of your children. Then there are other things like a shared view of the relevance (or irrelevance) of education, lovemaking, morals and by all means, shared trust and respect.

    Without those things, you simply become roomates—rings on fingers notwithstanding.

    Great article.


  23. […] Foot-in-the-door as a pickup technique Posted in news by jenapincott on September 27, 2009 French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen is fun. He’s the guy who asks the pressing questions we’d all like answered, whether we admit it or not: Does makeup really make a woman more attractive to men?; Are dog owners more likely to get dates?; How much does cup size really matter?; and How does priming men to think about love change their behavior? […]

  24. […] to attract men; whether dog owners attract more dates (and whether breed makes a difference); how priming men to think about love changes their behavior; whether asking a woman a small favor makes her more likely to give him her number later; and […]

  25. Interesting reading… – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks said, on January 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    […] Remind a man of love and his behavior changes in minutes – “The results? Men who had been primed to think of love were three times more likely to help out a “damsel in distress” than men who were primed to think about their favorite music. Only 13 percent of the music-primed men gave money compared to 38 percent of the love-primed guys…” […]

  26. Jan petrie said, on March 23, 2010 at 5:35 am

    I think men like running into a woman from their past. This reminds them of their youth and thus reminds them of their past chivalrousness and this is why you hear of many old romances rekindled at things like high school reunions. Men like to feel young again and reigniting past relationships is another kind of love priming.

  27. sherrie said, on August 13, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Your website is by far the best.
    I have a 29 year old son and a husband and three daughters.
    I noticed something among my and/or my husband’s friends, as well as my husband and our son. They take pride and satisfaction in times when their women hord money for the nest egg, kids, or family needs. They seem to find comfort in it even though at times they fight to losen our grip. I’ve even heard my husband and his friend brag that their wives hide money for the fam that they cannot get to.. It’s as if they are saying, my wife protects our house, our money, our future. What i bring in she stashes for important things.

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