You've probably heard the popular maxim explaining men's obsession with cars -- how they view their automobile as an extension of their, erm, manhood. Freudian babble? Perhaps, but are flashy wheels really a sex symbol? Are women more attracted to a man who, say, drives a Porsche than a guy with a Honda Civic?
The answer is yes, but the appeal won't necessarily last, says a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The study found that women view men who flaunt expensive sports cars more desirable as a date -- but not necessarily as marriage material. The women in the study also took the fancy wheels to mean the man was looking for no-strings-attached sex.
The research by Rice University, the University of Texas-San Antonio and the University of Minnesota, titled "Peacocks, Porsches and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System", was conducted with 1,000 men and women on their attitudes toward 'flashy' spending and sexual attraction.
And much like how peacocks flaunt their brilliant feathers to attract mates, some men use 'flashy' possessions to charm potential dates, the researchers found. "They're the ones driving the bright colored sports car," says co-author Vladas Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.
So a shiny Porsche is a display of wealth, and the guy behind the wheel is really sending the evolutionary message that he's able to provide. But interestingly, women don't necessarily see him as a good husband material. In fact, when women choose a long-term partner, a guy who owns a fancy sports car holds no advantage relative to another man owning an economy car.
Why? It's believed that women who are looking for long-term commitments may be turned off by a guy's lavish spending on himself, preferring the male to invest in the family and children instead.
"People may feel that owning flashy things makes them more attractive as a relationship partner, but in truth, many men might be sending women the wrong message," says co-author Daniel Beal, assistant professor of psychology at Rice.