Dirty Booty Tricks: The High Bridge
[As I tend to write more regularly if I have a theme to blog around, I'm today setting out to help those looking to get an early jump on spring romance, with a series applying cheap psychological tricks to the world of sex and dating. Tactless, perhaps. But, as they say, all's fair in love and war.]
I’ve been nervous all afternoon. And, after several hours of trying to figure out why, I finally pinpointed the cause: after several weeks off of morning coffee, today I downed two double espressos before noon.
Which makes sense in the context of work by 19th-century researchers William James and Carl Lange. The pair turned emotion theory on its head by suggesting that feelings are largely determined by attribution. Common sense dictates the opposite: feel nervous, and your heart pounds, your mouth goes dry. But James and Lange insisted things work the other way around: we get the palpitations and dry mouth first, then sub-consciously determine nervousness is the emotion that fits.
Over the years, a slew of psychologists have elegantly proved the theory, but my personal favorite – and the one most applicable to our lecherous cause – is Aron & Dutton’s classic High Bridge Study.
In it, an attractive female researcher asked male passersby to fill out a brief research survey about a nearby long, narrow footbridge spanning a deep ravine.
The survey, in fact, was meaningless. But the researcher also gave each male subject her phone number, in case they wanted to ‘follow up with any questions about the survey’. Half of the men got the survey (and phone number) just before the bridge, the other half just on the far side. And the real dependent variable was how many of the men actually called the researcher to ask her out.
The conclusion: about 15% of the pre-bridge interviewees called, while about 50% of the post-bridgers did. In other words, 35% of the men confused enough of their bridge-driven adrenaline with genuine attraction to tactlessly dial the dame.
Which, in short, explains the perennial effectiveness of the ordinarily disdained ‘gym pickup’, where potential dates are likely to confuse post-treadmill windedness with your having taken their breath away.
Of course, even having booked the date in less heart-pounding settings, you can still sneakily help your cause. Taxi rather than subway, as the requisite reckless speeding is sure to have her adrenaline pumping. And head to the scariest movie you can find, where your date won’t be sure herself if she’s grabbing your arm because an axe murderer just popped out from around the corner, or because, well, you’re hot enough to die for.
Up next time: for the love of a giant paper bag.