In order to investigate the viability of truly platonic opposite-sex friendships—a topic that has been explored more on the silver screen than in the science lab—researchers brought 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends into…a science lab.
Privacy was paramount—for example, imagine the fallout if two friends learned that one—and only one—had unspoken romantic feelings for the other throughout their relationship.
Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual.
As a result, men consistently the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief.
In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends.
Can heterosexual men and women ever be “just friends”?
Few other questions have provoked debates as intense, family dinners as awkward, literature as lurid, or movies as memorable. Daily experience suggests that non-romantic friendships between males and females are not only possible, but common—men and women live, work, and play side-by-side, and generally seem to be able to avoid spontaneously sleeping together.
However, the differences between men and women appeared here as well.To the outside observer, it seems clear that these vastly different views about the potential for romance in opposite-sex friendships could cause serious complications—and people within opposite-sex relationships agree.In a follow-up study, 249 adults (many of whom were married) were asked to list the positive and negative aspects of being friends with a specific member of the opposite sex.Men were also more willing to act on this mistakenly perceived mutual attraction.Both men and women were equally attracted to romantically involved opposite-sex friends and those who were single; “hot” friends were hot and “not” friends were not, regardless of their relationship status.Changing who and what you are becomes nearly impossible after that. Oh, sure, people as adults can make you believe from time to time that they are something different than what they really are, but in the end, they are, well, they are what they are. When it comes to love and marriage, there is a truism that trumps all truisms – pay close and careful attention to the words, deeds, and actions of the person you think you are falling in love with.