Published online 10 December 2003 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news031208-8

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Women addle men's maths

Pretty faces make men reach for money.

Men with more on offer might be better able to win the girl.Men with more on offer might be better able to win the girl.© GettyImages

Pretty ladies make men want wealth with which to impress, according to a new study - even if they'll be worse off in the long run.

Psychologists Margo Wilson and Martin Daly at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, asked students whether they would prefer, say, $19 tomorrow or $25 next week. They then showed them the faces of ladies whose attractiveness was ranked on the website 'How Hot Am I?'.

After eyeballing pictures of pretty women, men were more likely to want immediate monetary gratification than to wait for a bigger bonus. Women's calculations, on the other hand, were unaffected by male eye candy, as were men's after ogling plainer women or fancy cars1.

With ladies fresh in their minds, men want money immediately because they might use it to impress and woo them, Wilson suggests. Such a trait might have been evolutionarily advantageous: men with more to offer might have been better able to get the girl.

The study suggests that the brain areas triggered by a cute face are linked to those that calculate rewards, Wilson says. She next plans to study whether men also covet other resources to wow the ladies, such as food or gifts, and whether older or married men are immune to the women's effect.

The results also support the idea that advertisements featuring attractive women seduce men into parting with their money, Wilson adds. "But I guess the marketing people already knew that," she says. 

  • References

    1. Wilson, M. & Daly, M. Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future? Proceedings of the Royal Society London B, published online, doi:10.1098/rsbl.2003.0134 (2003).