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In the "ego-depletion" condition, students were told they couldn't use the letters A or N anywhere in the story, whereas in the "non-depletion" condition, they weren't given this cognitively taxing instruction.
After the writing task, participants looked at a picture of an attractive opposite-sex person and rated how they would respond if the person approached them, using one of three categories of openers: direct, innocuous, or cute/flippant. Those whose brains were cognitively taxed were less receptive to cute/flippant openers compared with those in the non-depletion condition.
Does a person's mental state affect how a pick-up line is perceived?
In a recent study Gary Lewandowski and colleagues gave 99 undergraduates a five-minute writing task in which they were asked to describe a recent trip.
If you've already been hit by a barrage of cute/flippant lines, your brain may feel a bit fatigued. When your mind is taxed, it is much more difficult to process information and regulate your emotions, thoughts, and actions.
There were also gender effects consistent with the prior research I mentioned earlier.
Men were more receptive to direct openers, and females were more receptive to innocuous openers.
Like a muscle, self-control is a limited resource; when fatigued, it's hard to flex it.
This has important implications for interpersonal relationships: People in monogamous relationships whose brains are tired spend more time looking at attractive potential mates, are more likely to accept a coffee date from an attractive person, report more interest in an attractive person who is not their partner, and are more likely to actually cheat.