60-Second Mind

Attraction between Friends of Opposite Sexes

A recent survey finds considerable differences in how men and women view attraction between male and female friends

Close friends of opposite sexes—is it possible for it to be platonic? Or will there inevitably be some sort of uncomfortable subtext of attraction?

Researchers surveyed more than 80 man-woman pals. They found that men were more attracted to their female friend than vice versa. Men also consistently and mistakenly assumed that their female buddy was attracted to them more than they actually were.

And perhaps more surprising, men’s attraction to their women friends was not deterred if they, or the friend, were already romantically involved with another person.

Women, on the other hand, reported having much less desire to date their male friend if they, or he, were already romantically engaged with another. The study is in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

So how to handle the conflict of attraction between friends? In another survey the researchers found that, overall, the participants were five times more likely to see it as burden than as not.  Although the scientists spotted a gender difference here, too. Turns out men felt there was more to gain from attraction in friendships, and women felt there was more to lose. So much for the fantasy of friends with benefits.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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