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Valar Qringaomis

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Men and women take home different regrets after sex

Sexual Regret: Evidence for Evolved Sex Differences

"Regret and anticipated regret enhance decision quality by helping people avoid making and repeating mistakes Some of people’s most intense regrets concern sexual decisions. We hypothesized evolved sex differences in women’s and men’s experiences of sexual regret. Because of women’s higher obligatory costs of reproduction throughout evolutionary history, we hypothesized that sexual actions, particularly those involving casual sex, would be regretted more intensely by women than by men. In contrast, because missed sexual opportunities historically carried higher reproductive fitness costs for men than for women, we hypothesized that poorly chosen sexual inactions would be regretted more by men than by women. Across three studies (Ns=200, 395, and 24,230), we tested these hypotheses using free responses, written scenarios, detailed checklists, and Internet sampling to achieve participant diversity, including diversity in sexual orientation. Across all data sources, results supported predicted psychological sex differences and these differences were localized in casual sex contexts. These findings are consistent with the notion that the psychology of sexual regret was shaped by recurrent sex differences in selection pressures operating over deep time...

When the participants were asked to describe one memorable regret in their lives, the most commonly cited form of regret involved ‘‘romance’’ (love, sex, dating or marriage; Morrison & Roese, 2011). Romantic regrets are likely to include many different experiences– getting a divorce, marrying the ‘‘wrong person,’’ having an affair, not pursuing someone special, having casual sex with the wrong partner, losing one’s virginity too early or too late, and so forth. Although the study found that women were more likely than men to describe a romantic regret...

We examined two hypothesized differences between men and women. First, women more than men will regret poorly chosen sexual actions (doing something and later wishing they had not). Second, men more than women will regret poorly chosen sexual inactions (not doing something and later wishing they had). We expected that these proposed sex differences in regret would be particularly large when the consequences of sexual decisions were linked with fitness costs (i.e., costs associated with decrements in reproductive success) that historically differed markedly for women and men. We also examined whether sex differences in sexual regret varied across sexual orientations, which allowed us to examine whether regrets are affected primarily by one’s own sex or by the sex of one’s partners...

In U.S. adult samples, women were more likely than men to regret losing their virginity too early and having premarital sex whereas men were more likely than women to regret not losing it early enough and not having premarital sex...

Almost all prior research has focused on the frequency but not the intensity of sexual regret. This is a significant omission, because frequency-based sex differences in some regrets could be either masked or enhanced by differences in the base rates of opportunity for the relevant sexual experiences. For instance, if men perceive having fewer opportunities for casual sex than women do, men might report fewer total instances of inaction regret, even if they are more likely to regret each particular instance of sexual inaction...

Assessment of whether non-heterosexuals differ from heterosexuals in their pattern of regrets is important for disentangling the effects of one’s own sex from the effects of the sex of one’s partners, which helps to pinpoint the factors affecting differences in regrets between individuals...

The effect sizes for these sex differences were very large (ranging from .80 to 1.82), as is expected given that women and men are thought to have faced substantially different evolutionary selection pressures in these particular domains (Buss, 1995; Symons, 1979). These sex differences were larger than those documented in earlier sexual regret research that did not emphasize casual sex to the same extent as the vignettes used here (Roese et al., 2006; range of d reported=.21–.94). In sum, the findings suggest that regrets concerning casual sex are a locus of particularly robust sex differences.

In contrast to the casual sex vignettes, the romantic opportunity vignettes largely showed no sex differences, underscoring the fact that sex differences in regrets vary by domain, even within the overall category of mating-relevant regrets... Women did rate their own anticipated action regret–getting involved in a relationship they later regretted–higher than did men (female M=4.8, male M=3.7), t(192)=3.43, p=.001; d=.50...

The goal of Study 2 was to extend these findings in two ways. First, we moved beyond the undergraduate sample to consider action and inaction regrets among other adults. Second, we examined a variety of regrets where sex differences were expected and also a variety of regrets where no differences were expected. The goal of this design was to examine whether sex differences are particularly strong in domains that relate to hypothesized fitness costs and benefits that historically differed for men and women...

Based on Hypothesis 1, we expected that women would be more likely than men to regret casual sex encounters. Based on Hypothesis 2, we also expected that men would be more likely than women to regret not pursuing or not engaging in casual sex as well as delaying sex in an existing committed relationship. In other cases, such as contracting an STD or having sex with a coworker, which can carry high costs for both women and men, we did not advance predictions about sex differences...

Notably, none of the 39 sexual action regrets were more common for men than for women and only one of the 30 sexual inaction regrets was more common for women than for men. This regret was ‘‘not engaging in sexual activity with someone only because I did not want to appear promiscuous’’; 16% of women in comparison to 8% of men reported this regret, v2(1, N=395)=6.23, p=.014. This difference possibly reflects the fact that women are more likely than men to worry about appearing promiscuous (Crawford & Popp, 2003). Because women are more likely than men to face negative consequences to their reputation for engaging in casual sex, they may make more sexual decisions in which reputational concerns are an issue...

We highlight the regrets that were most often reported in the ‘‘top five’’by women (Table 1) and by men (Table 2). Few of the top regrets overlapped between women and men and the top regrets that showed no sex difference (e.g., having unprotected sex) were those for which we did not have predictions about sex differences. A noteworthy and common regret that showed no significant sex difference was cheating on one’s partner, with 23% of women and 18% of men listing it as one of their five strongest regrets. Possibly, the lack of a sex difference here is a consequence of the fact that discovered infidelity carries extremely high costs for both sexes, including the possibility of relationship dissolution (Betzig, 1989).

As shown in Table 1, action regrets in the context of uncommitted sex dominated women’s top five lists. These included having a one-night stand, having sex with a stranger, and having sex with someone who falsely promised commitment. These results provide additional fine-grained support for Hypothesis 1, which states that sexual actions involving a lack of commitment will be those that women are particularly likely to regret.

Women’s top regrets also included having sex with a physically unattractive partner and women (17 %) were more likely than men (10 %) to list this as one of their strongest regrets. This result might seem somewhat counterintuitive, given the expectation that men place a greater premium than do women on physical attractiveness in potential mates (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). However, this result is consistent with two other replicable findings. First, women substantially increase their standards for attractiveness for casual sex partners (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Kenrick et al., 1993; Li & Kenrick, 2006), possibly to gain genetic benefits for offspring. Second, men dramatically lower their standards in short-term mating contexts, including standards for physical attractiveness, and hence are less likely to regret casual sex with an unattractive partner. Although men do value physical appearance in potential mates, a low-cost sexual encounter with an unattractive partner historically would have still afforded a valuable reproductive opportunity that might offset collateral costs such as reputational damage.

In contrast to the women’s list, Table 2 shows that men’s aggregated ‘‘top five’’ list largely consisted of regrets predicted by Hypothesis 2. These include missing casual sex opportunities, not having sex early enough in a relationship, staying in a bad relationship and missing sexual opportunities as a result, and expending effort in pursuing someone whom they thought would have sex with them but did not (Table 2, Item 8). This last regret is a notable juxtaposition to the result that women regretted having sex with someone who they thought would enter into a relationship with them but did not (Table 1, Item 8). In essence, whereas women regretted being ‘‘led on’’romantically, men regretted being‘‘led on’’sexually...

Men’s regret about unsuccessfully pursuing sexual opportunities is noteworthy for another reason. In contrast to the majority of regrets that men experienced more often than did women, this was not an inaction regret; yet, its greater prevalence for men follows from the logic of Hypothesis 2. According to Hypothesis 2, men regret sexual decisions that result in lost sexual opportunities. In this case, a poorly chosen action resulted in an opportunity cost, such that men were unable to pursue sexual opportunities with other women...

In this large and diverse sample of adults, the patterns of sex differences replicatedStudies1and2andreplicated across sexual orientations as well, although the sex difference was sometimes smaller among non-heterosexual participants. Compared to each of the three groups of men, each of the three groups of women reported higher sexual action regret and lower sexual inaction regret. Nevertheless, sexual orientation did predict the magnitude of the regrets: lesbian and bisexual women had lower casual sex action regrets and higher casual sex inaction regrets compared to heterosexual women. It is possible that these differences by sexual orientation may result from the fact that the reproductive and social consequences differ between sexual encounters with other women versus with men...

It is noteworthy that we did not find marked sex differences in other regrets, including romantic nonsexual regrets (Study 1) and various other regrets (Study 2). Likewise, the extant literature on regret has not found sex differences in regretting actions and inactions in general (Gilovich & Medvec, 1994; Landman, 1987). Therefore, regret concerning sexual actions and inactions in the context of casual sex appears to be a special case in which there are marked sex differences in regret, supporting the two central evolutionary psychological hypotheses advanced...

The finding in Study 3 that lesbian and bisexual women regretted casual sex actions less and regretted inactions more than did heterosexual women is consistent with at least two of these factors affecting regret: women who have sex with women do not worry about pregnancy and women who have casual sex with women could have greater sexual satisfaction than women who have casual sex with men. Therefore, these factors could help to explain differences between regrets experienced by lesbian and bisexual women, on the one hand, and heterosexual women on the other."
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