The Small Gesture That Makes Men Assume You'll Have Sex With Them

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woman and man about to kiss

A 2013 study from Hendrix College in Arkansas asked a co-ed group of college students about their general interest in sex, and their perception of other people's interest in sex. (By answering questions such as, "When a man [or woman] goes out to a bar, how likely is it that he [or she] is interested in finding someone to have sex with that night?" Aka, which gender wants it more?)

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Then, the researchers kept the subjects up all night (chastely! obviously) and asked the same round of questions to the now sleep-deprived students.

It turns out that, in general, people agree that men are more interested in having sex.

BUT, sleep-deprived male college students rated female sexual intent as just as high or higher than that of men. In other words, when men are tired, they're way more likely to assume a woman is sexually interested.

So, here's the one thing that makes men assume you'll have sex with them:

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When a woman touches a man's arm during a date or smiles at a male student during class, how likely is it that she wants to have sex with him?

The best way for him to figure that out is probably to ask her.

Researchers at Hendrix College, in Arkansas, recruited 60 college students (31 men and 29 women). The participants rated men's and women's general interest in sex, and their intent to have sex, in situations like the ones above. For example: "When a man [or woman] goes out to a bar, how likely is it that he [or she] is interested in finding someone to have sex with that night?" They were also asked how strongly they agreed with generalized statements about both genders' interest in commitment, such as: "A typical woman needs to know that a man loves her before she is willing to have sex with him."

The researchers then had the participants go without sleep for an entire night and tested them again the following morning.

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Overall, the participants rated men as being more interested in sex than women are, and as more likely to intend to have sex. Once sleep-deprived, however, the male participants' answers changed: they rated women's interest in and intent to have sex as being more or less equivalent to that of men. Sleep deprivation did not have any effect on the female participants' perceptions.

Sleep deprivation appeared to affect men's judgment about romantic situations.

The authors point out that lack of sleep has already been associated with worsened decision-making, similar to what happens when you've had too much to drink. It's believed that both cause impairment to the frontal lobe -- the part of the brain responsible for inhibition and moral reasoning, among other things. 

So, men! Don't go to a bar when you've gone too long without sleep. Or, I dunno, do. (Maybe some shy guys need the extra encouragement?)

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Lindsay Abrams is a human-centered design practitioner, facilitator, and coach dedicated to changing the future of media. She is currently leading the design strategy for CNN podcasts & audio.

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This article was originally published at The Atlantic. Reprinted with permission from the author.