Sex Ed

Men are More Likely to Agree to a Hookup When Their Phone’s Battery Level is Low

February 17, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

We’ve long known that scarcity plays an important role in sexual attraction. For example, in a classic study, research assistants approached people at a bar at different points during the night and asked them to rate the attractiveness of other patrons.

What they found was that, for men and women alike, perceived attractiveness increased as the night went on and the bar got ready to close. This finding has been replicated a few times and has been dubbed “the closing-time effect.” Basically, it means that as our opportunities for finding a hookup decrease, our standards change.

Yes, alcohol consumption plays a role here as well—the so-called “beer goggles” effect. However, research has found that changes in blood alcohol level don’t fully account for the closing-time effect. In other words, both booze and scarcity play a role in our shifting standards of attraction.

A new study published in the journal Sexuality & Culture finds additional support for the role of scarcity in sexual attraction in a very different context: online hookups. This study is the subject of a recent article I published over on The Kinsey Institute Research Blog.

What the researchers in this study did was to show participants a smartphone screenshot featuring the same series of sexts, with the only thing that differed being the battery life indicator. This was set at either 5%, 20% or 100%. Participants were asked to imagine that they were part of this sexting exchange and to report on their likelihood of agreeing to a hookup with the other person.

Only men who have sex with men were surveyed, but what they found was that the odds of saying yes to the hookup increased in the low battery conditions compared to the full battery condition. In other words, as the perceived time available to make a decision decreased, their odds of saying yes increased—a scarcity effect.

However, some people were more likely to say yes than others regardless of battery condition—and that was a function of their personality. To learn more about who these folks were and for full details on this study, check out the full article on The Kinsey Institute Research Blog.

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To learn more about this research, see: Lopes, A., Skoda, K., & Pedersen, C. L. (2019). Smartphone Battery Levels and Sexual Decision-Making Among Men Who Have Sex with Men. Sexuality & Culture.

Image Credit: 123RF/adiruch

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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