Both the men and women were set up for phony encounters with the opposite sex. Half of the unsuspecting men were individually introduced to attractive, “single” women who flirted with them. The other men were introduced to “unavailable” women who ignored them.
After the encounter, the men filled out a questionnaire regarding how they would react if their “romantic partner” did something annoying. The men who had just met the available women were 12 percent less forgiving than those who met the unavailable women. As strange as it seems, meeting the flirtatious female made these guys less empathetic to the partner they were committed to.
While the men came out looking like jerks in the study, the women were saints in comparison. The women who met an available man became, not less empathetic, but more so. They were 17.5 percent more likely to forgive their partners’ bad behavior.
Regarding these results, Dr. Lydon believes it has to do with how temptations are viewed by the two sexes. “We believe men simply interpret these interactions differently than women do. We think that if men believed an attractive, available woman was a threat to their relationship, they might try to protect that relationship.”
Lydon seems to imply that men are so naive, or in such a state of denial, that they don’t fully appreciate the obvious fact that getting involved with a flirtatious woman could threaten their relationship. Most women don’t wear the same blinders. Lydon states, “Women have been socialized to be wary of the advances of attractive men. These findings show that even if a man is committed to his relationship, he may still need to formulate strategies to protect his relationship by avoiding that available, attractive woman.”
Dr. Lydon went so far as to instruct some of the men to formulate and write down a strategy of how they would distance themselves from the next temptation in order to protect their relationship. No word yet regarding the men’s ability to use the strategy when the real test comes.