It's called "Porsches and Peacocks". Researchers from Rice partnered with UT San Antonio and the University of Minnesota. They found that, for some men, driving a fancy car serves essentially the same purpose as plumage on a peacock to attract potential mates. Rice assistant psychology professor Dan Beal is one of the authors of the study. He says women see the guy in the Porsche, or something like it, as someone who's not really into settling down.
"Guys use the purchasing of flashy objects as a way to attract women. But guys who do that are only the ones who are interested in short-term relationships. So they're just getting an accurate picture of reality, that it's probably more likely that if somebody's buying a flashy product, that he is probably more interested in a short-term relationship. "
Beal says the study found when it comes to landing a spouse, women generally don't care if the would-be husband drives a Porsche or something more modest, like a Honda Civic.
"That was actually the question — how desirable is this person as a potential partner for marriage, and the responses were not significantly different from each other. So it didn't help or hurt. But there was an advantage to having the Porsche when considering the person for a date."
Beal says while men may use conspicuous consumption to attract women, women don't do the same to attract men. Researchers did not look into whether these patterns exist among people trying to attract partners of the same sex. The complete study can be found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.