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Women Eye Dance Moves to Find Thrill Seekers

How to spot thrill-seeking men on the dance floor, "sweet" personalities in public, and bidding fever on eBay.
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Women considering a fling can go to a dance floor and spot suitably wild and crazy guys without exchanging a word. (Graham Smith)

Women considering a fling can go to a dance floor and spot suitably wild and crazy guys without exchanging a word. (Graham Smith)

It turns out the information women seek isn’t in a man’s kiss — it’s in his dance moves.

Evidence of this nonverbal messaging system comes from a group of European researchers, led by the University of Göttingen’s Nadine Hugill, which videotaped 50 men and their moves. Sixty women watched the recordings and judged the hunkiness of each hoofer.

Before hitting the dance floor, the men completed a survey measuring their propensity to engage in new and risky behaviors, including their penchant for “thrill and adventure seeking.” Their willingness to flaunt rules and take chances was reflected in their moves, and the ladies sensed it: the researchers found “a positive and significant correlation” between the guys’ sensation-seeking scores and their perceived attractiveness.

Writing in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the researchers concede such cues could be a turnoff to women looking for a stable relationship, but those considering a fling can spot suitably wild and crazy guys without exchanging a word. Sadly for some of us, it seems a man is judged by the quality of his watusi.

Going berserk on eBay
Economists tend to assume that people act rationally, at least where their finances are concerned. But one researcher found just the opposite when he studied eBay auctions of gift certificates.

The Ohio State University economist Matthew T. Jones looked at 506 such auctions in September and October of 2008. He found the winning price exceeded the certificate’s face value 41.1 percent of the time. A similar study that examined eBay auctions of a variety of items showed 48 percent of top bids came in higher than the asking price of the item.

The Jan-Feb 2012

This article appears in our Jan-Feb 2012 issue under the title "Risking It All on the Dance Floor." To see a schedule of when more articles from this issue will appear on, please visit the
Jan-Feb 2012 magazine page.


In the journal Economic Letters, Jones concludes the most plausible explanation is “bidding fever,” which he defines as “the expectation of extra utility from winning an auction that is somehow inspired during the bidding process.” In other words, you obtain the item — and the rush of satisfaction that comes with being a winner. Do I hear any other explanations? No? Going once, going twice  …

Just a spoonful of sugar makes ... people be nicer?
Looking for volunteers? Donors? Nice people to hang out with? Your best bet may be to stand outside a candy shop. A research team led by Gettysburg College psychologist Brian Meier reports that, compared to their curmudgeonly counterparts, people with “sweet” personalities are more likely to crave actual sweets.

This crackerjack research was conducted at North Dakota State University, where students took part in five experiments comparing their taste preferences with their willingness to help others. Not only did those with a strong liking for candy, cake, and caramel think of themselves as agreeable sorts, they were more likely to complete a voluntary survey and climb four flights of stairs to deposit it in the proper box. Perhaps that sugar gave them an energy boost.

Researchers couldn’t say why sweetness became a metaphor for selflessness, let alone why a preference for one would be linked to a predilection for the other. Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Meier and his colleagues speculate it has something to do with “the sweet taste of breast milk,” a seminal sensory experience that accompanies our earliest experiences of emotional attachment. Don’t disparage that gourmand enjoying a Good Humor bar; there’s an excellent chance he’s a good Samaritan.

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