Monday 24 January 2011

Dating: Women react to romantic songs

A recent study has concluded that women are twice as likely to accept a date from a stranger if they have just heard a romantic song. Should all the men be paying attention to the Muzak playing in the coffee shop or the bar before springing the question? Maybe the "right moment" is the moment after what we may consider to be the sappy love song.

The study with the large title of ‘Love is in the air’: Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request was conducted by Nicolas Guéguen, Professor of Social Behaviour at the University of Bretagne-Sud in France. Professor Guéguen indicates that his research interests focus on atmospherics and consumer behaviour and compliance-gaining procedures. I'm not sure what that means but it all sounds important.

Now, how did this study of Mr. Guéguen - Or should I say Monsieur Guéguen? -  come to such a conclusion?

183 female students were recruited for the project making sure "single women" were selected, that is, they did not currently have a significant other. The researchers then did interviews to determine what the women considered to be romantic songs as opposed to neutral or non romantic songs.

Supplemental to this part of the selection process, the researchers also showed photographs of 12 young men to 18 different women who were not part of the program and asked them to evaluate the physical attractiveness of the men.

Each participant was told that the purpose of the study was market research on cookies. They were lead into a room where they had to wait by themselves for a few minutes before an interview. During this time, either a romantic song or a neutral song was played. The female subject was then taken to an interview room and introduced to one of the pre-selected male subjects. The female interviewer then questioned them on the cookies but at some point, excused herself to leave the two of them alone. The male subject had been instructed to smile and say, "My name is Antoine, as you know; I think you are very nice and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together somewhere next week." If the female accepted the offer, the male was to write down her telephone number but if she did not accept the offer, he was to remain pleasant. The interviewer would come back and the session would end.

The results showed a correlation with the type of song played. If a romantic song had been played, 52.2 percent of the women accepted the offer of a drink from the man while only 27.9 percent accepted if the song played had been "neutral".

In the introduction to the study, the authors point out:

Previous research has shown that exposure to various media is correlated to variations in human behaviour. Exposure to aggressive song lyrics increases aggressive action whereas exposure to songs with prosocial lyrics is associated with prosocial behaviour.

The authors go on to explain:

It is well established that exposure to violent media increases aggressive behaviour, thoughts and feelings and decreases the probability of expressing prosocial behaviour (see Bushman & Huesmann, 2006 for a review). The same effects were found with violent video games (Anderson, Gentile & Buckley, 2007), and experimental studies found that listening to aggressive song lyrics, compared with neutral ones, increased aggressive behaviour, thoughts and feelings (Fischer & Greitemeyer, 2006).

In this study, they have proven that other types of music can also have an effect on people.

Listening to romantic song lyrics, relative to neutral ones, increased the probability of accepting a request for a date some minutes later. This effect confirms the behavioural effect of exposure to media content.
They point out:

Why did this effect occur in this experiment? Previous research found that music had the ability to induce positive affect (Lenton & Martin, 1991) and that positive affect is related with receptivity in a courtship request (Guéguen, 2008). Thus, in our experiment, it is possible that the romantic song lyrics activated positive affect which, in turn, made the participant more receptive to a request for a date. It’s also possible that the romantic song lyrics acted as a prime that, in turn, led to the display of behaviour associated with this prime (Bargh, Chen & Burrows, 1996). In a recent experiment, Lamy, Fischer-Lokou and Guéguen (2009) found that men who were interviewed and asked to recall a romantic episode interacted more favourably with a female confederate some seconds later.

Final Word
We seem to be influenced by our surroundings and that influence may be so subtle, we are unaware of it. I note in this paper:

In a recent experiment conducted by Jacob, Guéguen, Boulbry and Selmi (2009) it was found that male customers, but not female, exposed to romantic songs played in a flower shop spent more money than when no music was played or when non-romantic pop music was played.

It isn't just women, it is also men. We all seem to be affected by music; maybe not always under the same circumstances - Don't forget that men are from Mars. Ha! - but we are affected. As I said in the opening, as a man who may be waiting for the right moment to ask a woman for a date, should I be thinking of not just the setting, but what song just played in the background? Of course, in a busy coffee shop or in a crowded bar, who is actually paying attention to the music playing in the background? Heck, the study talks about the lyrics of a song and I know from experience that in noisy places I can barely make out what the song is never mind understand the lyrics.

So, as I'm sitting there trying to screw up the courage to ask the woman for a date, I may just bend an ear to the song playing as that may up my chances of getting a positive response and seeing me walk away with a telephone number.


‘Love is in the air’: Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request
Nicolas Guéguen, Université de Bretagne-Sud, France
Céline Jacob, Université de Bretagne-Sud, France
Lubomir Lamy, Université de Paris-Sud, France

Nicolas Guéguen
Professor of Social Behaviour at the University of Bretagne-Sud in France


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