Know what sounds great? Finding a nice IPA that ninety per cent of the users of ratebeer say is great. Know what sounds not so great? A beer that ten per cent of those users say is terrible. The thing is, we’re talking about the same beer, and the second option sounds unpleasant because of the framing effect. What’s that have to do with the women in your life? Well, women are more susceptible than men to the framing effect when it comes to relationships.
A study published in Evolution & Human Behaviour found that, though both men and women fall prey to framing, women are more likely to feel it more strongly. Why?
“When it comes to mate selection, women are more attuned to negatively framed information due to an evolutionary phenomenon called ‘parental investment theory,’” says Gad Saad, one of the coauthors. Translation: choosing the wrong mate is a bigger problem for men than for women.
Researchers had hundreds of young men and women look at positively framed and negatively framed descriptions of potential partners.
Example of positive framing: “Seven out of 10 people who know this person think that this person is kind.”
Example of negative framing: “Three out of 10 people who know this person think that this person is not kind.”
Descriptions were based on six key attributes. Two were more important to men (attractive body and attractive face), two more important to women (earning potential and ambition), and two important to both men and women (kindness and intelligence).
When given all these descriptions, women were far less likely to consider dating people framed negatively than those framed positively. Men still were susceptible to the framing effect, particularly on attractiveness descriptions, but less so than women.
So, what’s your takeaway? Nothing—not much you can do about it. Just hope people aren’t saying, “Yeah, you should totally date Jeff. Only two of his past ten girlfriends have described him as terrible in bed!”