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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 19-Oct-14


Sunday 19-October-14

Better than sex

What's better than sex? Well I guess there are many views on that, from 'nothing' to standing on the beach in the Maldives watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean. But, by and large, we tend to enjoy sex rather a lot. Well, good sex anyway. It's not surprising, because it's a basic need for propagation of the species. If sex wasn't nice, we wouldn't be here. There are gender differences in this that perhaps should be noted. For men sex is relatively straightforward, but women face the prospective pain of childbirth and still dive between the sheets. This perhaps explains why men get aroused more easily, although the ultimate pleasure gained by men or women is maybe difficult to assess.

So perhaps it isn't surprising that the question of 'What's better than sex' has been the subject of research. Not directly, of course. Researchers sampling various hedonistic alternatives would probably not be taken too seriously in the academic press. So instead Brad Bushman and colleagues asked college students, who are usually known for their lack of inhibitions around sex, how much they liked various pleasant activities, including sex. In this, they were asked about activities that build self-esteem to greater or lesser extent, with self-esteem coming from such as getting good marks in an exam or just people paying them a friendly compliment. To their surprise, they found that the highest scoring activities were those where the student received a good boost to their self-esteem. In another study, they gave the students a test and then let them think that if they waited they might get a higher mark. Those for who self-esteem was more important generally preferred to wait.

In other words, feeling good about yourself is more important than feeling good, particularly if you do not currently feel so good about yourself. This is an important point when thinking about changing minds. If you can focus on how the other person feels about themself, especially if self-esteem seems important for them, you will probably be more successful in getting them to think differently. More generally, rather than just use the persuasion methods that you like using, watch and listen first, then customize what you do to what is important for the other person, whatever that is.

Bushman, B., Moeller, S., and Crocker, J. (2010). Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards. Journal of Personality

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