Big Spenders Attract Flings, But Not Marriage

Like proud peacocks, men looking for love may flaunt flashy accessories like sports cars. The posturing may very well get you a date, researchers find, but she'll likely not consider you marriage material.

In the study, participants found men who purchased luxury products more desirable for a fling than the same man who chose a non-luxury item. The catch? They weren't more likely to prefer that same guy for a marriage partner, as they inferred the showy spending meant he was interested in uncommitted sex.

"People may feel that owning flashy things makes them more attractive as a relationship partner, but in truth, many men might be sending women the wrong message," said study researcher Daniel Beal, assistant professor of psychology at Rice University.

These are the results of several studies with nearly 1,000 college students.

For instance, in two of the studies when guys were primed to think about romance — in one case by looking at photos of attractive gals thought to be part of a dating service — they were more likely to spend hypothetical money on flashy products if they were interested in flings than if they preferred invested relationships.

The studies also showed women don't conspicuously spend to attract men.

"Obviously, women also spend plenty of money on expensive things," said Jill Sundie, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas-San Antonio. "But the anticipation of romance doesn't trigger flashy spending as it does with some men."

Sundie is lead author of their paper published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

These findings fit with past research published in 2008 in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. In that study, men who lived beyond their means and were less likely to save reported having more sexual partners in the past five years and desired more future partners than other guys in the study. And as was found in the new study, this one showed financial consumption wasn't significantly related to past or future mates.

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Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.