Thinking About Sex? That’ll Cost You

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Studies show that after being shown photos of attractive women, men are more willing to buy pricey status-symbol items like designer watches and sports cars.

It’s all a peacock-like show to try to attract members of the opposite sex. Women, however, react differently when prompted to think about romance and sex, as a SmartMoney story shows:

Economists such as Ori Heffetz and Robert Frank at Cornell have worked to create a measure of “visibility” to determine how much of people’s consumption is intended to signal status to others. The answer is: quite a bit. The visibility of products like cars, clothing, furniture, jewelry and dinners out can explain at least 12% of the variability in how people spend an extra dollar as their incomes rise — that number jumps to 20% for the upper half of earners.

Even more revealing, however, is how men and women respond in an economic experiment when “romantically primed” — that is, when they are shown pictures of attractive people of the opposite sex and then asked to make various consumption decisions. Romantically primed men, in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, proved much more willing to splurge on things like flashy watches and expensive cars (while they showed no difference in their spending on boring, non-flashy things like tissues and headache medicine). Women, meanwhile, didn’t adjust their consumption at all when romantically primed. Instead, romantically primed women indicated that they were more willing to spend time volunteering (such as at a children’s hospital or a homeless shelter).

So guys: If you’re looking for a “romantically primed” woman, you might want to drop by the soup kitchen. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not to wear a Rolex.