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Don't the Girls' Get Prettier at Closing Time: A Country and Western Application to Psychology

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Abstract

Despite psychology's attempts at keeping pace with hypotheses generated by song writers, research dealing with perceived physical attraction has fallen far behind. In an attempt to close the gap, a study was conducted which confirmed Gilley's (1975) prediction that "all the girls get prettier at closing time, they all get to look like movie stars..." A reactance interpretation based on predecisional preferences validated Gilley's observation "ain't it funny, ain' t it strange, the way a man's opinions change when he starts to face that lonely night."
... While the notion that "people get prettier at closing time" might seem like an urban legend, several studies support this thesis. The closing time effect, as the literature has coined it, proposes that bar patrons rate opposite-sex, but not same-sex, individuals as more attractive during closing time than during earlier times of a bar's opening hours (Johnco et al., 2010;Nida & Koon, 1983;Pennebaker et al., 1979). With the basis in Brehm's (1972) reactance theory, Pennebaker et al. (1979) proposed that time restrictions will threaten the freedom to choose a partner, which, in turn, will cause patrons to increase their attractiveness ratings of potential partners in such consumption contexts. ...
... The closing time effect, as the literature has coined it, proposes that bar patrons rate opposite-sex, but not same-sex, individuals as more attractive during closing time than during earlier times of a bar's opening hours (Johnco et al., 2010;Nida & Koon, 1983;Pennebaker et al., 1979). With the basis in Brehm's (1972) reactance theory, Pennebaker et al. (1979) proposed that time restrictions will threaten the freedom to choose a partner, which, in turn, will cause patrons to increase their attractiveness ratings of potential partners in such consumption contexts. As the threat becomes bigger when the closing time approaches, so will the magnitude of the reactance. ...
... Thus, to expand on the literature, the current work investigated whether the closing time effect applies to self-rated attractiveness rather than attractiveness ratings for opposite-sex individuals. Pennebaker et al. (1979) was the first to document the closing time effect. Since then, several studies have attempted to replicate the original findings (Gladue & Delaney, 1990;Johnco et al., 2010;Madey et al., 1996;Nida & Koon, 1983;Sprecher et al., 1984). ...
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Across three studies, the present research examined beliefs and real-world responses pertaining to whether bar patrons' self-rated attractiveness would be higher later in the night. Contrary to beliefs held by lay people (Study 1A) and researchers in relevant disciplines (Study 1B), the results of a field study (Study 2) revealed that patrons perceived themselves as more attractive at later times, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. Relationship status moderated this time-contingent finding, which only applied to patrons who were single. However, consistent with sexual strategies theory, this interplay was further moderated by the patrons' sex. Men rated themselves as more attractive later in the night regardless of their relationship status, whereas this "pretty" pattern only held for single women. Taken together, the current work highlights the concept of time in forming consumers' evaluative judgments and adds to the literature on the closing time effect.
... Theory and research also provide indirect evidence for the idea that perceiving many available partners decreases commitment readiness. For instance, theoretical perspectives (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004;Sprecher, 1998) and supporting research (Jemmott III, Ashby, & Lindenfeld, 1989;Pennebaker et al., 1979;Stone, Shackelford, & Buss, 2007;Uecker & Regnerus, 2010) on sex ratios suggest that people who are heterosexual become less selective when there are more people of their own sex compared to the other sex and thus have fewer romantic opportunities, and become more selective when their sex is in the minority and thus have greater romantic opportunities. Similarly, economic theories (Lynn, 1991;Rosato, 2016;Schwartz & Ward, 2004) and supporting research (Haynes, 2009;Iyengar & Lepper, 2000) on scarcity suggest that people tend to desire scarce or limited options more than highly available options, and often struggle to select an option when choices are too plentiful. ...
Article
People often consider how ready they feel for a committed romantic relationship before initiating one. Although research has only begun to identify the antecedents of commitment readiness, several theoretical perspectives suggest that it should be shaped by the perceived frequency of available partners. We conducted five studies (one correlational, four experimental) that tested this idea among single people. A Pilot Study assessed participants' perceptions of available romantic partners and their commitment readiness. In the subsequent four experiments, participants read articles (Studies 1a and 1b) or created dating profiles and were presented with false feedback (Studies 2 and 3) that influenced perceptions of available partners and reported their commitment readiness. Results suggested that people were less ready to commit to a romantic relationship to the extent that they perceived they had many partners available to them. These results further understanding of factors that promote the decision to initiate a committed relationship.
... The phenomenon became known as the closing time effect. J. W. Pennebaker et al. (1978) conducted the first experiment testing this observation. Using 52 men and 51 women as subjects at three bars near a college campus, experimenters asked individuals the following question: "On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 indicates 'not attractive,' 5 indicates 'average,' and 10 indicates 'extremely attractive, how would you rate the opposite-sex individuals here tonight?" ...
... B. Morris & Albery, 2001;Rehm et al., 2012). However, increased likelihood to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse may also be influenced by the 'beer goggles' phenomenon (Lyvers, Cholakians, Puorro, & Sundram, 2009;Maynard, Skinner, Troy, Attwood, & Munafò, 2015;Pennebaker et al., 1979) (an increase in perceived attractiveness of others when intoxicated) than alcohol-induced risk-taking per se. ...
Thesis
Background: Up until now research investigating alcohol and risk-taking has largely overlooked influences from the social settings in which drinking usually occurs. The thesis therefore examines systematically, risk-taking as a determinant and consequence of alcohol consumption, whilst addressing the independent and combined influences of social contexts. Method: Study 1 –Participants completed online surveys measuring trait impulsivity, risk-taking propensity, and alcohol use behaviours. Study 2 – General risk-taking and computer simulated risky driving were measured before and following 0.6g/kg of alcohol or placebo administration in isolation or in natural friendship groups. Study 3 – Risk-taking was assessed in isolation or in natural friendship groups, following 0.8g/kg of alcohol or placebo consumption. Risk-taking behaviour was measured via The Shuffleboard Game, developed to examine physical risk-taking more akin to real world drinking games. Affective state was further measured both before and after beverage consumption. Study 4 –Intoxication levels, experienced alcohol-related consequences, relative injunctive norms, and risky gambling, were measured in real world alcohol and non-alcohol-related environments. Group size data were also collected. Meta-analysis – A systematic search of Web of Science, PsycINFO and PsycARTICLES, revealed 22 (k = 35) alcohol administration studies measuring risky behaviour. Results: Study 1 found both impulsivity and risk-taking predicted 8-11% of variance in hazardous and harmful alcohol use, and dependence symptoms, and 10-14% when combined. Results suggested some overlap between impulsive and risk-taking traits, yet still supported them as distinct constructs. In Study 2, those who were tested in group contexts were riskier on both general and driving-related tasks, than those in isolation. However, no effect of alcohol or interaction of intoxication and group was found on risky behaviour. Conversely, in Study 3, both alcohol and group contexts were found to independently increase risky behaviour on The Shuffleboard Game, although no interaction of beverage and context was revealed. Further, a more positive mood predicted increased risk-taking behaviour. Study 4 revealed no influence of environment (alcohol versus non-alcohol), intoxication levels or injunctive norms on risky gambling, whereas larger group size was associated with riskier lottery choice in non-alcohol-related environments only. Furthermore, injunctive norms predicted experience of risky alcohol consequences, and were riskier in alcohol-related settings. Finally, the meta-analysis found a small, yet significant effect of acute alcohol consumption on risky behaviours, and more specifically on risky driving and gambling. However, alcohol was not found to influence risk-taking on general (non-specific) risk-taking tasks. Overall conclusions: Overall it was found that social contexts consistently increase individual risky behaviour, whereas alcohol effects on risk-taking are contingent on the risk domain measured. The lack of a combined influence of intoxication and groups highlights the importance of targeting social influences and perceived injunctive norms alongside alcohol consumption to reduce risky behaviour in drinking settings. Moreover, the varied effects of alcohol across risk domains outlines important implications for future research assessing risk-taking. Finally, the thesis finds risk-taking to be a predictor of alcohol consumption behaviours therefore, identifying potential risk-factors to address when attempting to reduce problematic alcohol consumption. Original contribution: The experimental research is the first of its kind to experimentally measure both the influence of alcohol and group contexts on individual risk-taking, as opposed to a collective group decision. Further, the thesis offers new insights into the effect of alcohol consumption on risk-taking as findings suggest variations of intoxication influences across risk-domains. Finally, the thesis contributes a newly developed measure of risky behaviour which potentially demonstrates risk-taking more akin to real-world drinking.
... As a result, men are afforded fewer mating opportunities and therefore bear a greater cost when these opportunities are missed. In support of these assumptions, studies have shown that men are more willing to have casual sex with strangers (Buss & Schmitt, 1993;Clark & Hatfield, 1989;Herold & Mewhinney, 1993;Oliver & Hyde, 1993), take more risks in consummating sexual opportunities (Ariely & Loewenstein, 2006), overestimate women's sexual interest (Grammer, Kruck, Juette, & Fink, 2000), desire a greater number of sexual partners (Dewsbury, 1981;Wilson, Kuehn, & Beach, 1963), and lower their standards toward potential mates when sexual opportunities arise (Pennebaker et al., 1979;Szepsenwol, Mikulincer, & Birnbaum, 2013; for a broad review, see Baumeister, Catanese, & Vohs, 2001). Thus, the literature highlights that men are more responsive to sexual cues, more motivated to pursue mating prospects, and show cognitive biases aimed at avoiding missed sexual opportunities (Haselton & Buss, 2000). ...
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Research suggests that humans can communicate emotional states (e.g., fear, sadness) via chemosignals. However, thus far little is known about whether sexual arousal can also be conveyed through chemosignals and how these signals might influence the receiver. In three experiments, and a subsequent mini meta-analysis, support was found for the hypothesis that men can process the scent of sexually aroused women and that exposure to these sexual chemosignals affect the subsequent perceptions and sexual motivation of men. Specifically, Experiment 1 revealed that men evaluate the axillary sweat of sexually aroused women as more attractive, compared to the scent of the same women when not sexually aroused. In addition, Experiment 2 showed that exposure to sexual chemosignals increased the men’s sexual arousal. Experiment 3 found support for the thesis that exposure to sexual chemosignals would increase sexual motivation. As predicted, men devoted greater attention to and showed greater interest in mating with women who displayed sexual cues (e.g., scantily dressed, in seductive poses). By contrast, exposure to the sexual chemosignals did not alter males’ attention and mating interest toward women who displayed no sexual cues. It is discussed how sexual chemosignals may function as an additional channel in the communication of sexual interest and how contextual factors can influence the dynamics of human sexual communication.
... The "Closing Time" effect (Pennebaker et al., 1979) holds that over the course of an evening in a bar, patrons rate one another as more attractive as closing time approaches. This result highlights the influence of diminishing opportunity on decision making, even on social interactions that take place over the course of just a few hours. ...
Article
How do singles' strategies for engaging in sexual activity with a new partner vary across the adult lifespan? Using three large and independent demographically representative cross-sectional samples of heterosexual single adults in the U.S., we found that females approaching the typical age of menopause became less likely to establish relationship exclusivity prior to sexual activity with a new partner. However, after the typical age of menopausal onset, females returned to earlier levels of commitment choosiness. These changes in commitment choosiness surrounding the age of menopause were consistent across two studies (including a larger dataset combining two samples). Findings suggest that single females approaching menopause—a major life history milestone—alter their behavior to achieve reproductively relevant partnering goals but abandon this mating strategy once the typical reproductive period has ended. Males exhibited similar, though attenuated, changes in expected relationship commitment before sexual activity during midlife as well. Age-related changes in commitment corresponded with the amount of stress expressed regarding one's “biological clock”. However, reduced commitment choosiness did not vary with frequency of sexual thoughts, frequency of sexual behaviors, or external pressures to find a romantic partner. Results are discussed in terms of life history theory and sex differences in sexuality.
Article
Darwin's theory of sexual selection fundamentally changed how we think about sex and evolution. The struggle over mating and fertilization is a powerful driver of diversification within and among species. Contemporaries dismissed Darwin's conjecture of a "taste for the beautiful" as favoring particular mates over others, but there is now overwhelming evidence for a primary role of both male and female mate choice in sexual selection. Darwin's misogyny precluded much analysis of the "taste"; an increasing focus on mate choice mechanisms before, during, and after mating reveals that these often evolve in response to selection pressures that have little to do with sexual selection on chosen traits. Where traits and preferences do coevolve, they can do so whether fitness effects on choosers are positive, neutral, or negative. The spectrum of selection on traits and preferences, and how traits and preferences respond to social effects, determine how sexual selection and mate choice influence broader-scale processes like reproductive isolation and population responses to environmental change.
Thesis
This thesis proposes that judgments of attractiveness are necessarily relativistic. The scope of investigation was the contrast effect in judgments of physical attractiveness of self and strangers. As it stands, the effect predicts that exposure to highly attractive individuals will make people rate their own attractiveness or the attractiveness of others as lower. On the other hand, exposure to unattractive individuals is expected to have the reverse effect. This thesis deals with a number of issues of the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness which have until now remained unclarified or unexplored. The theoretical part of the thesis covers issues such as the general theories of context effects, specifying the conditions when contrast or the opposite effect, assimilation are predicted, the importance of physical attractiveness for humans, as well as conventional definitions of it, the influence of the media in shaping people's attractiveness standards, and the applicability of Social Comparison theory on some of the issues under investigation. The findings of the thesis indicated that the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness of strangers is a robust effect with considerable cross-cultural and cross-situational generality. Based on the results, a hypothesis was formulated on how the number of attractive people one is exposed to affects their ratings of attractiveness of others. Furthermore, the similarity between the target and the primes was found to promote the effect, however, the specificity of this similarity extended only as far as the sex of the stimuli. In line with previous findings the evidence on the contrast effect on self-ratings of attractiveness proved equivocal. The thesis tested two likely factors of this elusiveness and obtained encouraging data from one of them. Finally, the ubiquitous aim of the current work to test the ecological validity of the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness placed the importance of the phenomenon in perspective.
Article
This study examined how partner preferences differ across interpersonal contexts (romantic attachment and relationship expectations) based on sexuality and biological sex. Participants completed measures of attachment and behavioral expectations for their romantic partners, cross-sex friends, and same-sex friends. The attachment anxiety results revealed an effect of sexuality: Single heterosexuals scored higher for their cross-sex friends than same-sex friends, single lesbian/gay individuals scored higher for same-sex friends than cross-sex friends, and bisexuals’ attachment anxiety was equal regardless of friends’ biological sex. The behavioral expectation results revealed an effect of biological sex indicating that, regardless of sexuality, women are preferred over men for emotional/social needs. Finally, an interaction revealed that lesbians have higher expectations for their girlfriends/wives than straight men have for theirs.
Chapter
Dieses Kapitel widmet sich den Mechanismen sozialen Einflusses, d. h., wie wir durch andere Menschen in unserem Denken und Handeln beeinflusst werden. Sozialer Einfluss liegt bereits vor, wenn sich allein durch die Anwesenheit anderer Personen unser Leistungsverhalten verändert, auch wenn jene uns gar nicht absichtlich beeinflussen wollen. Dies wird unter den Stichworten „soziale Erleichterung“ und „soziale Hemmung“ dargestellt. Ob andere Personen eine Mehr- oder Minderheitsmeinung uns gegenüber vertreten, wirkt ebenfalls als sozialer Einfluss (eine direkte Beeinflussungsabsicht kann, muss hier aber nicht vorliegen) und wird im Anschluss besprochen. Im letzten Teil des Kapitels geht es um den klassischen Fall sozialen Einflusses, den absichtlichen, taktisch klug eingefädelten Beeinflussungsversuch.
Article
Used J. W. Brehm's (see 41:7) theory of psychological reactance to derive the hypothesis that prior to making a decision between 2 alternatives, ratings of the attractiveness of those alternatives will converge as the decision point draws nearer in time. An experiment was conducted in which the amount of time until a decision had to be made was manipulated to be either 3, 8, or 15 min. 59 female undergraduates in these conditions rated the attractiveness of the 2 alternatives immediately after learning of the amount of time until the decision. Results indicate that the difference between the ratings of the 2 alternatives was greater the more time Ss expected to elapse before a decision was required. Data were also collected from Ss who merely evaluated the 2 alternatives, not expecting to decide between them, and from Ss who had just committed themselves to 1 of the alternatives. Implications of data for competing theories of predecisional cognitive processes, and the limitations that must be placed on the reactance theory interpretation of these results, are discussed. (16 ref.) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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