Posted May 1, Reviewed by Lybi Ma. I have ly published two posts on the "friend zone"—the area of mismatched romantic or sexual expectations between friends. In the firstI shared some possible techniques to escape the friend zone and potentially turn from friend to boyfriend or girlfriend. In the secondI discussed this problem a bit more, sharing tips on how to avoid the friend zone in the first place.
Can men and women be "just friends?
Men report more sexual interest in their female friends than their female friends do in them, and men are also more likely than women to overestimate how romantically interested their friends are in them. In most cases, sexual attraction within a friendship is seen as more of a burden than a benefit, the study finds.
Just friends? guys reveal sexual interest in gal pals
Friendship is an interesting area to study because it doesn't have obvious reproductive advantages, Bleske-Rechek told LiveScience. Evolutionary psychologists often focus on sexual relationships and familial relationships, under the assumption that humans evolved to pass on their own genes to the next generation. But friends don't share genetic ties or offspring, and yet they still help each other out.
Bleske-Rechek and her colleagues were interested in how heterosexual, opposite-sex friends dealt with issues of sexual attraction that might come up in their friendships. First, they recruited 88 pairs of opposite-sex college-age friends to fill out questionnaires about their friendship.
The researchers had pairs of friends come in so they could be sure that each member of the pair agreed that they were in a friendship, preventing one-sided relationships from muddying the waters. The participants separately answered questions about their friendship, including their levels of attraction to one another.
To discourage pressure to share the answers later, the researchers instructed the friends to keep their answers confidential, even after the study. The revealed that men are more attracted to their female friends than their female friends are to them.
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Such overestimating of women's interest is not unusual for men, Bleske-Rechek said. Men who were romantically involved were no less likely than single guys to say they found their female friend attractive or to say they'd like to go on a date with her. Women who were romantically involved were also equally as likely as single gals to be attracted to their male friends, but they drew the line at dating, with fewer women in relationships saying they'd date their guy friend.
The researchers next wanted to expand their findings outside the college student realm, so they sent questionnaires young adults ages 18 to 23 and adults between the ages of 27 and In these questionnaires, participants were asked about their cross-sex friendships and were given the opportunity to list their own reasons why those friendships were both beneficial and burdensome.
Although older adults reported fewer opposite-sex friends than the younger group did, everyone was very positive about these friendships, ranking them as overwhelmingly beneficial.
But when people listed attraction on the "costs and benefits" list, it almost always fell under a "cost. There was a slight sex difference to this finding, such that men were less likely to call sexual attraction to a friend a cost than women were, although they were still unlikely to see it as a positive.
The finding shouldn't be interpreted to mean that men and women can't be friends, Bleske-Rechek said, just that we may have to overcome our evolutionary history to do so. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter livescience and on Facebook. Live Science.
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