If you’re a man who has patronized Vegas casinos, this scenario might sound familiar to you.
You’re standing at the Craps table and have already rolled a couple of times, losing money each time. You throw another roll, this time thankfully making back the money you lost.
Just then, from the corner of your eye, you notice that an attractive woman seems to be interested in your game (and perhaps you). You throw another roll and win again. You’re debating whether to quit while you’re ahead and cash out, but your concentration is broken by the woman who is now smiling at you and says, “You’re really doing great” as she reaches out and touches you gently on your back.
Not only do you decide to keep playing, but you significantly increase your bet. You lose, but she encourages you again with another touch, and you bet again.
What’s going on here? Are you simply so caught up in trying to impress this woman that you keep betting even though you’re in the hole? Perhaps. But according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, the reason might go deeper than that.
Participants were tested to see if they would take risks, such as investing money or making a substantial gamble. Before taking the risk, they were greeted in one of three different ways: (1) by a female or male researcher with a light touch on the shoulder, (2) a handshake, or (3) no physical contact at all. At the end of the experiment, participants filled out surveys that assessed how secure they felt.
The researchers found that participants who were touched on the shoulder felt more secure and took bigger risks than those who weren’t—but only if they were touched by a woman. The effect was stronger for a touch than for a handshake, but disappeared entirely for participants who were touched by a man.
The interesting part about this is that the same finding was found for men and women who were touched by a woman, suggesting that this is not solely a sexual attraction effect.
The researchers draw a line between this finding to previous research on how a woman’s touch affects an infant, making the child feel more secure and comfortable. It’s entirely possible that a woman’s touch works the same on adults—making them feel more secure and willing to take risks.
Which brings us back to the casino scenario. What do you think are the chances that the woman in question works for the casino and is planted in the crowd to make sure guys like you keep playing?
Don’t feel bad, but they’re a lot higher than the chances you’ll keep winning.