Misattribution of Arousal: Scary Activities Indirectly Lead to Higher Attraction

Imagine this: to stay alive, you MUST cross an extremely wobbly, cricking and sky level bridge that’s stationed in the middle of a forest canyon.

Now, tell me: how are you feeling right at this moment?


None of us are Tarzans, therefore, we’d all be scared out of our minds. Your eyes are nervously blinking and aiming to get a good enough image, you’re fidgeting with your hands, you feel your face swelling up with sweat, you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll make it out alive…

Don’t these all sound like symptoms of when we’re about to go on a promising first date? Or when you’re in the movie theaters because your friends dragged you to see the latest horror movie? Or a job interview to land that dream position?

In other words, we’re aroused. Scientists define arousal as: alertness, engagement, and a heightened level of physical activity, such as an elevated heart rate.

Psychologists Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron conducted a classic experiment testing attraction. They uniquely threw men onto two different bridges: an extremely shaky tall one and a more stable, shorter one.

At the end of the bridge, a female experimenter greeted them with an ambiguous picture, asking the men to make up a story of their perception of the picture. As these men finished their responses, the experimenter offered her number, expressing that they may contact her if desired.


Dutton and Aron speculated that walking across the bridge stirred up a sense of arousal and that these participants would mistakenly think they were attracted to the female experimenter that greeted them. However, the two psychologists state that the arousal wouldn’t derive from the experimenter’s attractiveness, but, rather, it’s a result of the intensiveness of crossing the shaky bridge.


The males who crossed the wobbly bridge were more likely to call the experimenter and their story of the picture contained more sexual content.

Scientists say that the men on the less sturdy bridge mistakenly took this arousal yielded from crossing the bridge and assumed it was because they were attracted to the female experimenter therefore, pursuing her (calling her).

Dr. Benjamin Le states that this misplacing of attraction can be directly tied to effective dating advice: if you want your date to potentially feel more aroused around you, pick out a scary activity. Watching a horror movie, going to a scary tourist attraction/theme park, web searching haunted (but legal) locations you can scout out with them or picking an activity they fear, but want to overcome (like roller coasters, bungee jumping, rock climbing, sky diving, etc.).





Le, B. (2011, April 15). Scream 4: A good date movie? Retrieved from http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2011/4/15/scream-4-a-good-date-movie.html

Martin, A. (2008, March 1). Preserving a forest and a philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/01/business/01hike.html

Two-factor theory of love. (2013, February 14). Retrieved from http://psychapprentice.weebly.com/psychology-lexicon/two-factor-theory-of-love

Edited by: Zoe

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