Manspreading might make you the villain of the morning L train, but a new study suggests it could also make you lucky in love. People who adopted “expansive postures”—widespread limbs and a stretched-out torso—in speed-dating situations garnered more romantic interest than those who folded their arms in “closed postures,” the researchers found.
For her recent paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, performed two studies. First, she and her team watched videos of 144 speed-dates and correlated them with the participants’ ratings of each other. People who sat in expanded postures were deemed more attractive, and for both men and women, postural expansiveness nearly doubled their chances of getting a “yes” response to a second date. Even laughing and smiling didn’t work as well as spreading out, Vacharkulksemsuk found.
Examples of expansive postures used in the study (PNAS)
Next, Vacharkulksemsuk posted pictures of people in open and closed postures on a dating site. Again, those in the expansive postures were about 25 percent more likely to generate interest from another user. However, this strategy worked much better for men than women. Men, overall, received far fewer bites than women did, but 87 percent of their “yeses” came in response to an open posture. For women, meanwhile, 53 percent of “yes” responses came when they were in an expansive posture.
Examples of contractive postures used in the study (PNAS)
In a separate test, Vacharkulksemsuk found that both the male and female “expansive” photos were considered more dominant than the “closed” photos. That dominance might suggest an abundance of resources and a willing to share those resources. When potential romantic partners are evaluating each other for just a few seconds, in other words, money talks—mainly through bodily breadth.
So should you rush to change your Tinder picture to something a little less pouty and a little more Backstreet Boys cira Millennium? Like with almost every study, there are reasons to be skeptical. “Power poses” made a big splash in 2010 when it was found that adopting them could tweak hormone levels—then sparked controversy after a follow-up study failed to replicate the effect.
Several researchers who weren’t involved with the study expressed doubts about its methodology. Agustín Fuentes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, said the findings might be a sign of general social preference for openness, but not necessarily that open-looking poses are sexier. “The connection to mating/dating assessment they suggest is superficial,” he said in an email.
Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, said some of the “expansive” women might have looked vulnerable, rather than powerful.
To Vacharkulksemsuk, though, the fact that her study subjects rated both the male and female “expansive” photos as dominant—and found that dominance attractive—might signal the start of something very exciting. For decades, women have been told they’re most attractive when they’re demure, high-pitched, and generally non-threatening. This data “may be signifying a change in what men are looking for in women,” she said. Perhaps commuters should brace themselves for the rise of fem-spreading.