Yes, people see straight through male displays of bling (they're only after a fling)

The story of Frugal Dan, Flashy Dave and a $20,000 car budget

If you're male, and splash your cash on fast cars and shiny things, then those around you likely think you're more interested in a short-term fling than something more romantic, according to a new study.

The study, published in Evolutionary Psychological Science, took a group of diverse US undergraduate students and presented them with two car purchasing scenarios, featuring "Frugal Dan" and "Flashy Dave", both with identical $20,000 budgets.

Dan's priorities were efficiency and reliability, and he spent all his money on a new car that would be unlikely to suffer any problems. Dave, on the other hand, spent less on the car – selecting an older model that he reckoned would be OK – and invested the rest of his cash in new paint, big wheels and a deafening sound system.

Participants were then asked to rate Dave and Dan on parenting and dating behaviours.

Prior to the study, researchers theorised that compared to frugal men, flashy men would be rated higher on mating effort and lower on parental investment, higher on interest in a brief fling and lower as a candidate for a committed relationship.

The results bore out the hypothesis, with the interesting twist that both male and female participants gave similar responses. Frugal Dan scored highly on interest in long-term romance while Flashy Dave rated far higher on interest in brief sexual encounters.

The researchers say: "This contrasts with the notion that men's conspicuous resource displays are attractive to women because they reliably signal expected future resource investment in partners and especially in offspring."

In fact, as lead author Daniel Kruger (ahem) wrote: "Participants demonstrated an intuitive understanding that men investing in the display of goods featuring exaggerated sensory properties have reproductive strategies with higher mating effort and greater interest in short-term sexual relationships."

So while Dan, in his sensible Škoda, may not be a contender for short-term fun like Dave and his loud, loud BMW, he can rest assured that those around him know intuitively that he's in it for the long haul. ®

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