The following was extracted from an
article in Psychology Today September 13, 2012 by
Dr. Ryan T. Howell, PhD.
We all know
about the cliche of the middle-aged man who responds to a "mid-life
crisis" by buying a Corvette. It appears that when men feel
their virility and attractiveness waning, they respond by finding
some way to show that they still have what it takes to be a good
mate. In evolutionary terms, this is called costly signaling.
Men are signaling that they are still viable mates.
So, why do men buy Corvettes? Because women are attracted to
First, researchers in the Netherlands found
that simply reminding men of mating opportunities (by showing
them pictures of attractive women) increased their desire for
status goods. When men want to mate with attractive women, they
think of buying things which display their mate value.
Second, researchers in Montreal found that when men engage in
conspicuous consumption -- when they buy the Corv ette -- they
actually experience a surge of testosterone. .... So, the plot
thickens! But the question then is: do women even notice
In short, yes. A recent study by Belgian
scientists found that when women are in the fertile stage of
their menstrual cycle, they actually pay more attention and are
more attracted to high status products. Women who are not in
their fertile phase do not. Women who are on the pill (which
disrupts the normal menstral cycle) also do not care so much
about status consumption. These results are consistent with other
findings that women in their fertile phase rate masculine men
as more attractive.
So, we now know that men who are reminded of mating opportunities
are motivated to signal their mate value through conspicuous
consumption; we also know that when they do they become more
mating-ready. Finally, however much we might think this strategy
is shallow and crass, it appears to be a reasonably good one,
because when women are in their fertile reproductive phase, they
are actually more susceptible to this conspicuous consumption