Remind a man of love and his behavior changes in minutes
Leave 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.