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Here is why men always think women are flirting with them

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A lot of women have probably experienced that awkward moment when a man misinterprets their innocent friendliness as a sexual advance.

There are two theories as to why this phenomenon occurs, in a classic battle between nature and nurture:


Nature

Error management theory suggests that men have been biologically wired to "overperceive" sexual advances by women so that they never miss out on any opportunity to spread their seed. Women, on the other hand, have evolved to "underperceive" sexual advances because they need to make sure they find an optimal partner to reproduce with.

Nurture

The counter of this theory suggests that societal norms determine how men and women interact. This line of thinking suggests in places that lack gender equality, misconceptions are likely to be higher among men, while in places with better gender equality, the levels of misinterpretation between men and women are likely to be more similar.


In an attempt to get to the bottom of this puzzle, Mons Bendixen, a psychologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, decided to replicate a 2003 US study but this time in Norway - a society that is deemed to be more egalitarian.

Explaining his findings to New York Magazine, Bendixen said: "Norway is very sexually liberal compared to the US. A Norwegian woman can play a more active and proactive part in the dating game than an American one without being subject to the same degree of derogation." This would therefore lead to the hypothesis that men and women in Norway would have fairly equal levels of misinterpretation.

To test this, Bendixen found 308 heterosexual university students between the ages of 18-30 and asked them all the same set of questions. He found that 88 per cent of women reported their friendliness had been misinterpreted as an advance, while only 70.6 per cent of men reported the same - similar to the results in the US.

Bendixen believes this result throws weight behind the aforementioned error management theory and that the awkward misinterpretations are not down to misogynistic culture or unequal opportunities for men and women but are simply evolutionary in nature.

So, women, as New York Magazine's Sofia Lyons advises: "Next time a guy misinterprets your friendly smile in a sleazy way, try to keep in mind that somewhere deep in his brain, he may still be a bit of a caveman."


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