In France there’s a psychologist, Professor Nicolas Gueguen, who roams the North-West, asking young women for their telephone numbers—or at least his research assistants and experimental confederates do.
This isn’t just to boost the national stereotype, but all in the name of science.
The results they’ve reported over the years confirm some things we think we already know and a few new insights. His experiments often involve approaching random strangers (usually women) in the street and asking them for something (usually their phone number). So far he’s found that:
- Men getting out of expensive versus cheap cars are more likely to get the numbers of passing women.
- A fire-fighter’s uniform makes women more likely to divulge the digits.
- A touch on the forearm makes a man more likely to get a woman’s number (it also works on men, see 10 Psychological Effects of Nonsexual Touch).
- And, on a slightly different tack, why loud music in bars increases alcohol consumption.
Now, in his latest experiment, he’s been testing the pulling power of musicians. How much extra sheen does it give a man if he’s carrying a guitar case when he asks a woman for her number?
Naturally women are pretty cagey when approached by random strangers in the street, so Gueguen et al. (2013) chose a young man who had been highly rated by a panel of women.
He was told to stand in a local shopping centre and approach women of between 18 and 22, without regard to their appearance, and say to them:
“Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together someplace.”
Then he smiled and gazed into their eyes. The poor chap had to do this in three different conditions while holding either:
- a guitar case,
- a sports bag or,
- no bag at all.
What happened was that when he wasn’t holding anything he got a number 14% of the time. The sports bag, though, put women off and dropped his average to just 9%.
It was the guitar case that did the trick, bumping up his chances to 31%. Not bad at all considering he was approaching random strangers in the street.
So the mystical, romantic image of the musician had a pretty powerful effect. Well, it will until she discovers the guitar case only has a sports bag inside.
(No mention is made of what the young man did with all the telephone numbers, but I’m sure they were dealt with ethically.)
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Kris Kesiak