Men who drive flashy cars and sport lots of bling aren’t all that impressive to women, according to a new study. Rather, women know full and well that these men are after one thing – or rather, lots of short-term flings.
New research by faculty at Rice University, the University of Texas San Antonio and the University of Minnesota found that men's conspicuous spending is driven by the desire to have uncommitted romantic flings.
In this study, researchers sought out to examine conspicuous consumption from an evolutionary standpoint. The team found that “conspicuous consumption is anything but a frivolous behavior; in fact, it appears to be linked to theoretically important individual differences in reproductive life history.”
In today’s society, “the purchase of luxury goods may be partly about the desire to fulfill social motivations and for status and prestige,” but men who drop cash on lavish and ‘look-at-me’ items are looking for a long succession of short-term romances, the researchers said.
The series of studies entitled, "Peacocks, Porsches and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System," was conducted with nearly 1,000 test subjects and published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
In one experiment, researchers found that when given the opportunity to drive a late model Porsche Carrera, men’s testosterone levels actually increased, giving them a boost in confidence and feelings of manliness. Contrastingly, when men test-drove a dilapidated old station wagon in a public setting, their testosterone levels actually decreased, suggesting that luxury items influence men’s confidence and ultimately their mating habits.
Three experiments by the team demonstrated that conspicuous consumption is driven by men who are follow a lower-investment mating strategy and is triggered specifically by short-term mating motives.
And a fourth experiment showed that observers interpret such signals accurately, with women perceiving men who conspicuously consume as interested in short-term mating.