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Do They Actually Want Me?: The Sexual Overperception Bias

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

Have you ever interacted with someone, say at a party, and for you its simply a friendly interaction; a few jokes, some nods, and a couple of smiles but at some point in the conversation it becomes clear the other person thought that those jokes, nods, and smiles were indicative of something more sexual and intimate? If you’ve answered yes to this question, please call 1-800-Sexual Overperception Bias because that’s what just happened.

What is the Sexual Overperception Bias?

The Sexual Overperception Bias is the tendency to believe that others are more sexually interested in you than they actually are. As in the example above the other person in that conversation overestimated the sexual interest when there wasn’t any. Interestingly, this tendency is more common in men than in women. This occurs for many reasons across many different situations.

Coworkers talking over coffee in the breakroom. A situation where the bias may occur. Source:

            Often times people are able to think of a friend who thinks everyone they interact with is flirting with them and wants a sexual relationship of some sort. It often looks like automatically believing every time someone offers a smile this friend concludes that the person has promiscuous intentions. This bias occurs in party situations, with staff at restaurants and hotels, the cashier at the grocery store, or amongst coworkers in the office. One instance may occur in the workplace where one coworker thinks another coworker is sexually interested in them because this coworker always offers to make them a cup of coffee. When the bias occurs in this situation, it is very likely that the work environment will become tense and uncomfortable. Or it may happen at a restaurant where the waiter’s hospitality is thought of as flirtatious often resulting in discomfort for the waiter while attending to this guest. The bias is also heavily present in romantic comedies, reality television shows, and sitcoms as a cliche for the overconfident guy who often states, “I think she wants me”. But why does this bias even happen, and can it be avoided?

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