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Check mates: A brief look at courtship requests (Part 2)

In my previous blog on courtship requests (e.g., men asking for a woman’s phone number, men asking women out for a drink, etc.), I examined a number of Dr. Nicolas Guéguen’s studies on the effects that various factors had solicitation success. In this blog, I briefly overview such factors as the role of the weather, music, odour, clothes (uniform and colour), flowers, and social status.

Weather: In a 2013 issue of Social Influence, Guéguen examined the effect of sunshine on romantic relationships (reasoning that sunny weather puts people in a better mood than non-sunny weather). In this study, an attractive 20-year old man approached young women walking alone in the street and asked them for their telephone number in two conditions (sunny or cloudy days). The temperature was controlled for and all days of the experiment were dry. The results showed that more women gave the man their telephone numbers on the sunny days. Guéguen concluded that positive mood induction by the sun may explain the success in courtship solicitation.

Music: In a 2014 issue of Psychology of Music, Guéguen and his colleagues examined the extent to which music can play a role in sexual selection. In their experiment, 300 young females were approached in the street by a young male who asked for their phone number. The same man approached the women in one of three conditions. In the first he carried a guitar case, in the second he carried a sports bag, and in the third he carried nothing. The results showed that the man received the most phone numbers of women while carrying the guitar case which the authors argued showed that musical practice can be associated with sexual selection.

Odour: In a 2011 issue of Chemosensory Perception, Guéguen examined whether a young man in a room (Guéguen’s laboratory) with a pleasant fragrance (the smell of a freshly baked croissant) was more successful asking women out on a date (i.e., a courtship request) than without a pleasant fragrance. Guéguen asserted that the effect of odour on romantic relationships had never been tested experimentally. The results showed that women more likely to agree to a date when they were in the room with the pleasant odour. Guéguen replicated the experiment in a real life situation and published his findings in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology. In the field experiment, young women were approached and asked for their phone number by a young attractive male in an area that had a pleasant aroma (i.e., pastry shops) and in another shopping mall area where there was no such aroma. More women gave their phone number to the man in the pleasant smelling area.

Clothes (uniform): In a 2009 issue of the European Journal of Social Sciences, Guéguen carried out three experiments on whether men wearing a fireman’s uniform made women more receptive to a courtship request. Guéguen’s experiments revealed that men were more successful in getting women’s phone numbers while wearing a fireman’s uniform (compared to when they weren’t). The other experiments showed that women more likely to smile and say ‘hello’ to a man in a fireman’s uniform compared to when they were wearing their normal clothes.

Clothes (colour): In a 2013 issue of the journal Color Research and Application, Guéguen examined the colour red and its association in love and sex. Using data collected on an online dating site, findings showed that women wearing red clothes in their dating photograph received more contacts from men in comparison to those wearing black, white, yellow, blue, and green.

Flowers: In a 2009 issue of Social Influence, Guéguen examined the effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behaviour in two experiments. In the first experiment, females that were exposed to flowers while watching a dating video of a man rated the man as more sexy and attractive (and more inclined to accept a date from him) compared to the condition where flowers were absent. In the second experiment, females responded more favourably to a courtship solicitation from a male when flowers were present in a social interaction compared to interactions without flowers. In a 2012 issue of the Journal of Social Psychology, Guéguen further examined the effect of flowers on mating behaviour. In this experiment, 600 women in a shopping mall were approached by an attractive young man who asked for their phone number. This was done in three different situations: in the area of a flower shop, a cake shop or a shoe shop. Results showed that the woman was more likely to give her telephone number when in the area of a flower shop.

Social status: In a 2012 issue of the Swiss Journal of Psychology, Guéguen (along with Dr. Lamy) examined men’s social status and attractiveness. In this experimental field study, young men with either low, middle or high incomes asked young women for their phone numbers while walking down the street. The man’s income was positively correlated with request success (i.e., the woman was more likely to give the man her phone number if he was rich). Guéguen and Lamy explained their results using evolutionary theory, suggesting that women select their partners with the greatest resources for them and their children.

Giving compliments: In a 2012 issue of Psychological Reports, Guéguen and his colleagues examined whether giving women compliments on how they looked made them more receptive to a courtship request. In the experiment, 160 women were approached by a man walking down a street and were asked if they would like to go for a drink. In one condition the women were given a compliment on their physical appearance (and in the other they were given no compliment). The results showed that more women said they would go for a drink with the man if they were given a compliment.

Parental investment: In a 2014 issue of Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Guéguen examined whether a man that interacted with a baby before asking women for their phone number were more successful than a control condition where a baby was present but no interaction took place. In the experiment, a man was seated at a pavement bar met his ‘sister’ and her baby (the woman wasn’t really his sister. Straight after the interaction, the man approached a nearby woman and asked them out. Results showed that when the man interacted with the baby, he was more successful and received more positive responses from the woman. Evolutionary theory was again used to explain the results (in terms of men’s parental investment, or at least women’s perceptions of it).

Foot-in-the-door techniques: In a 2008 issue of Psychological Reports, Guéguen examined whether ‘foot-in-the-door’ (FITD) techniques increase compliance to a courtship request. In his experiment, 360 young women were asked by a young male in the street whether they would like to go for a drink. In the FITD condition – prior to the courtship solicitation – the young woman was asked by the man to either provide directions or to give him a light for his cigarette. The findings showed that FITD led to more women saying they would go for a drink with the man.

While many of Guéguen’s studies might seem like common sense or truisms, he does at least provide scientific evidence for many things that are taken for granted as correct (often in the complete absence of empirical evidence).

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Guéguen, N. (2009). Man’s uniform and receptivity of women to courtship request: Three field experiments with a firefighter’s uniform. European Journal of Social Sciences, 12(2), 236-241.

Guéguen, N. (2011). Women’s exposure to pleasant ambient fragrance and receptivity to a man’s courtship request. Chemosensory Perception, 4, 195-197.

Guéguen, N. (2011). “Say it with flowers”: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior. Social Influence, 6(2), 105-112.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Gait and menstrual cycle: Ovulating women use sexier gaits and walk slowly ahead of men. Gait and Posture, 35(4), 621-624.

Guéguen, N. (2012). Does red lipstick really attract men? An evaluation in a bar. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(2), 206-209.

Guéguen, N. (2012). The sweet smell of…courtship: Effects of pleasant ambient fragrance on women’s receptivity to a man’s courtship request. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(2), 123-125.

Guéguen, N. (2013). Weather and courtship behavior: A quasi-experiment with the flirty sunshine. Social Influence, 8, 312-319.

Guéguen, N. (2014). Cues of men’s parental investment and attractiveness for women: A Field Experiment. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24(3), 296-300

Guéguen, N., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Lamy, L. (2013). Compliments and receptivity to a courtship request: A field experiment 1. Psychological Reports, 112(1), 239-242.

Guéguen, N., & Jacob, C. (2013). Color and cyber‐attractiveness: Red enhances men’s attraction to women’s internet personal ads. Color Research & Application, 38(4), 309-312

Guéguen, N., Jacob, C., & Lamy, L. (2010). ‘Love is in the air’: Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request. Psychology of Music, 38(3), 303-307

Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2012). Men’s social status and attractiveness. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 71(3), 157-160

Guéguen, N., Marchand, M., Pascual, A., & Lourel, M. (2008). Foot-in-the-door technique using a courtship request: A field experiment 1. Psychological Reports, 103(2), 529-534.

Guéguen, N., Meineri, S., & Fischer-Lokou, J. (2014). Men’s music ability and attractiveness to women in a real-life courtship context. Psychology of Music, 42(4), 545-549.

Bonus bawl: Are online gambling promotions socially responsible?

Many online gaming sites use a wide variety of promotions as a way of attracting new clientele and/or as a way of generating repeat patronage. Such promotions include welcome bonuses, initial deposit bonuses, retention bonuses, re-activation of account bonuses, and VIP bonuses. Here are a few I have come across online:

  • Players receive a 10% cash bonus on an initial deposit of $20 or more (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 15 times rollover. A ‘rollover’ refers to the amount of times an online gambler must wager a certain amount during a promotion)
  • Players receive a 100% match-up bonus on deposits (up to $225) (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 12 times rollover)
  • Players receive $100 free on initial deposit (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 20 times rollover)
  • Players receive 100% deposit bonus of up to $200 (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 40 times rollover)
  • Players receive 100% first deposit bonus up to £50 in free chips and players must deposit a minimum of £10 (however, bonus must have a 15 times rollover)

The issue here is to what extent the use of promotional ‘hooks’ to generate new custom or maintain repeat patronage can be regarded as a socially responsible strategy. Previous writings about advertising and marketing from a social responsibility perspective have noted that it is entirely appropriate for the gaming industry to advertise and market their products as long as it conforms to the relevant codes of compliance, is fact-based, does not oversell winning, and is not aimed at (or feature) minors.

Dr. Jonathan Parke and I have noted that in gambling there is a fine line between customer enhancement and customer exploitation particularly when it comes to facilitating new clientele and repeat patronage. Given the political sensitivities around the liberalization of gambling, the perception of what others think about a particular practice are sometimes given more weight than what it actually means in practice. However, irrespective of whether something is introduced in a socially responsible way and/or introduced into an environment with an embedded socially responsible infrastructure, there is always the possibility of a ‘PR own goal’ that may do more financial damage in the long run to the online gaming operator.

Given there is little empirical research on the effect of bonuses on vulnerable and susceptible gamblers, the implications relating to social responsibility are, at best, speculative. There are some academic writings on the use of bonus promotions in offline gambling environments but these are based on observational anecdotes rather than empirical research. For instance, Dr. Parke and I noted that the frequency of bonuses in offline gambling environments varies (depending the establishment) but can occur hourly, daily, weekly, or seasonally. We reported that such bonuses are often used to entice the consumer in several retail environments. What make them especially appealing in a gambling environment are the obvious similarities of the structural characteristics of such bonuses and gambling events in general (e.g., risk, uncertainty, interval-ratio reinforcement etc.). Furthermore, the appeal is strengthened since gamblers feel they are “getting something for nothing”.

We also distinguished between two fundamentally different forms of bonus – the ‘general bonus’ and the ‘proportional bonus’. These different types of bonus may have different implications in terms of social responsibility. General bonuses are those offers that are provided irrespective of the type of player (e.g., an occasional gambler is as equally entitled to the bonus as a ‘heavy’ gambler). Proportional bonuses are those offers that depend on how long and/or frequently the player gambles with a particular gaming establishment. This means that ‘heavy’ gamblers would receive disproportionately more bonuses than an irregular player. Given that a significant proportion of the ‘heaviest’ gamblers (sometimes referred to as ‘VIP gamblers’) may be problem gamblers, it raises questions whether rewarding people the more they spend is the most socially responsible strategy.

In relation to the use of promotional bonuses, there are two basic issues that arise. The first one is whether bonuses should be offered by online gaming companies if they are perceived by some to be ideologically incompatible with being socially responsible. The second is whether some types of bonus are less socially responsible than others. In the absence of empirical evidence, it could be argued that general bonuses that target potential adult online gamblers irrespective of play frequency and/or type, are acceptable within online gaming environments that have a good social responsibility infrastructure. However, bonuses that reward the biggest spenders could be argued to be much less socially responsible. Although this model is well accepted in most commercial environments (i.e., loyalty reward schemes), gambling is a commercial activity that can result in problems for the heaviest gamblers.

Applying these views to promotional bonuses in online gaming environments would mean that some bonuses appear generally acceptable from a social responsibility perspective (e.g., a $10 tokens, 100% welcome bonuses, and possibly re-activation offers) whereas others may be considered less socially responsible and potentially exploitative (e.g., retention offers, VIP offers). It may be the case that other socially responsible measures implemented by an online gaming company (such as the use of a behavioural tracking tool like mentor and PlayScan) may help mitigate the potential exploitation of problem gamblers, however, empirical research is needed to confirm such speculation.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Good practice in the gaming industry: Some thoughts and recommendations. Panorama (European State Lotteries and Toto Association), 7, 10-11.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005).  Does advertising of gambling increase gambling addiction? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 3(2), 15-25.

Griffiths, M.D. (2008). ‘Foot in the door’: Player enhancement or player exploitation? World Online Gambling Law Report, 7 (7), 15-16.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2002). The social impact of internet gambling. Social Science Computer Review, 20, 312-320.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A. & Parke, J. (2009). Social responsibility tools in online gambling: A survey of attitudes and behaviour among Internet gamblers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 413-421.

Gambling online, social responsibility and ‘foot-in the-door’ practices

Bill Gates arrives at the port to heaven and hell. Petrus says “You see Bill, we don’t know what to do with you. You may choose heaven or hell”. Bill peeks in heaven and sees a couple of old boring men sitting around at a table. Bill takes a look in hell and sees really beautiful women, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and most of all, gambling. Bill says “I am a gambling man, I want to go to hell!” Once in hell, Bill is immediately thrown into the fire. Bill says “Hey, what the hell is this, I saw all the gambling, women, and sex?” The devil says ‘That was just a demo version.”

Hopefully this opening joke highlights that online gamblers need to be aware that commercial operators often use subtle psychological ploys to get them to part with their money. For the online gambling industry, it also raises issues around social responsibility and the extent to which operators should be using such tactics.

One of the most common ways that gamblers can be facilitated to gamble online is when they try out games in the ‘demo’, ‘practice’ or ‘free play’ mode. At one level, most would argue that playing for points rather than money is little more than innocuous fun and ‘good value’ to the player. Furthermore, playing games for free online is akin to ‘skill schools’ that exist offline, such as learning poker or blackjack in a casino. Offline, there are many constraints to ‘learning to play’ as the free opportunities may only be available on certain days and at certain times. On internet gambling sites there is a lot of scope for players to practice games for free before they play with real money. However, gaming operators need to realise that in terms of their social responsibility, games – even the ‘demo’ versions – need to be fair to players. Despite the undoubted positives, there are other not so positive aspects that have been identified in the scientific literature.

The use of ‘greater than chance’ win probabilities during ‘demo’ games is one example of the many tried and tested psychological ‘foot-in-the-door’ techniques used widely in the commercial sector. Some research carried out by psychologists at the University of Laval in Canada showed it was significantly more commonplace to win while ‘gambling’ on the first few goes on a ‘demo’ or ‘free play’ game. They also reported that it was commonplace for gamblers to have extended winning streaks during prolonged periods while playing the ‘demo’ version. Obviously, once gamblers to play for real, the odds of winning may be considerably reduced. Related to this are the urban myths that develop around online gambling. For instance, a very common myth is that a gambler’s first bet after opening an online account is very often a winning one.

There is now a growing number of studies highlighting that playing for free online is popular among teenagers. ‘Money free’ gambling appears to play an important role for adolescents in conceptualising and experiencing Internet gambling. In the 2009 British study of gambling among nearly 9000 adolescents aged 11-to 15-years, Ipsos MORI reported that just over a quarter of them had played in ‘money-free mode’ on internet sites in the week preceding the survey. Further analysis of these data by researchers at Salford University showed that gambling in the money-free mode was the single most important predictor of whether the child had gambled for money, and one of the most important predictors of children’s problem gambling. However, the possibility and extent to which money-free gambling is responsible for real gambling participation and gambling-related risk and harm needs further research.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Forrest, D. K, McHale, I  & Parke, J. (2009). Appendix 5: Full report of statistical regression analysis. In Ipsos MORI (2009)British Survey of Children, the National Lottery and  Gambling 2008-09: Report of a quantitative survey. London: National Lottery Commission.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2010). Adolescent gambling on the Internet: A review. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 22, 59-75.

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The convergence of gambling and digital media: Implications for gambling in young people. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 175-187.

Sevigny, S., Cloutier, M., Pelletier, M. & Ladouceur, R. (2005). Internet gambling: Misleading payout rates during the “demo” period. Computers In Human Behavior, 21, 153-158.