Have a single guy friend looking for a date? Tell him to invest in a guitar.
A new study out of the Université de Bretagne-Sud in France, forthcoming in Psychology of Music, investigated whether men with guitars were more attractive to women.
Researchers, led by social and cognitive psychologist Nicolas Guéguen, asked a 20 year-old man to approach 300 women in their 20s and early 30s in the public shopping district of a medium-sized French city. The subject introduced himself, complimented the woman and asked for her phone number. The subject was either empty-handed, holding a sports bag, or holding a guitar case.
As it turned out, women were much more interested in going out for drinks with someone who played the guitar. When the subject was carrying the guitar case, 31 percent of the women he approached agreed to hand over their number, compared to 14 percent when he was carrying nothing and nine percent when he was carrying the sports bag.
Pacific Standard magazine compared these results to those of a 2012 study conducted in Israel, the results of which were published in Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science. Female students at Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University were more likely to accept a man’s Facebook friend request when his profile picture showed him playing a guitar than if it there was no musical instrument in his picture.
So why exactly does holding a guitar increase a man’s attractiveness?
The authors of the Université de Bretagne-Sud suggest in their paper that musical ability might be “associated with physical and intellectual abilities.” Musical talent has been linked to better spatial awareness and mathematical skill — but those aren’t necessarily a factor in how attractive we find someone, especially not at first sight.
Geoffrey Miller, a psychologist and author of “The Mating Mind,” has said that humans invented music because we like the sounds — and that musicians are attractive because they make the sounds. In an April 2012 debate with fellow scientist Gary Marcus, published in the Atlantic, Miller said: “Darwin argued that music evolved mainly by sexual selection through mate choice — and that we’re uncomfortable acknowledging that fact.”
However, Miller’s theory may be complicated by follow-up research from Nicolas Guéguen. According to Tom Jacobs at the Pacific Standard, Guéguen replicated the Israeli study, this time with women requesting male students as Facebook friends, and found that the presence of an instrument in the woman’s profile picture made no difference to whether or not the participants would accept her friend request. If music evolved through sexual selection, wouldn’t both men and women prefer members of the opposite sex who could play a tune? Or is there a distinct evolutionary advantage for women in going after men with musical abilities, but not vice versa?
We’ll leave that question to science. In the meantime, men, you might want to think about guitar lessons.