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A team of researchers, studying how human emotions such as regret can play an important role in survival and reproduction, have suggested that men are more likely to regret not taking action on a potential liaison, and women are more remorseful for engaging in one-time liaisons.
'Prior sex researchers have focused primarily on the emotion of sexual attraction in sexual decisions. These studies point to the importance of a neglected mating emotion- sexual regret- which feels experientially negative but in fact can be highly functional in guiding adaptive sexual decisions,' David Buss from University of Texas at Austin, said.
Martie Haselton, a UCLA social psychology professor, said that evolutionary pressures probably explain the gender difference in sexual regret, (Read: Men want more sex in the winter)
Haselton said that for men throughout evolutionary history, every missed opportunity to have sex with a new partner is potentially a missed reproduce opportunity- a costly loss from an evolutionary perspective.
But for women, reproduction required much more investment in each offspring, including nine months of pregnancy and potentially two additional years of breastfeeding. The consequences of casual sex were so much higher for women than for men, and this is likely to have shaped emotional reactions to sexual liaisons even today, Haselton said.
The researchers found that the top three most common regrets for women are: losing virginity to the wrong partner (24 percent), cheating on a present or past partner (23 percent) and moving too fast sexually (20 percent).
For men, the top three regrets are: being too shy to make a move on a prospective sexual partner (27 percent), not being more sexually adventurous when young (23 percent) and not being more sexually adventurous during their single days (19 percent).
More women (17 percent) than men (10 percent) included 'having sex with a physically unattractive partner' as a top regret. (Read: Beware casual sex could make you suicidal!)
The study is published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.
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