Everyone thinks that women like romantic movies and that they drag guys along to them. What was significant was that the guys also liked the movies, and that the choice to view a romantic movie was usually made together as a couple, not just by the girl.
Using a 7-point scale, Harris asked men and women to rate how much they liked a romantic movie they had just watched. He also asked them to rate how much they believed their date enjoyed the movie and how much they think men and women in general like romantic movies.
Although in the study both men and women generalized that men as a group wouldn't like a romantic movie, when men rated the romantic flick they had just seen, they gave it a 4.8 on Harris' scale. When women were asked to rate how much their dates liked the movie, they gave the same 4.8 rating.
"We found that women really do enjoy romantic movies," Harris said. "They rated how much they liked the movie at about 6 on the 7-point scale. However, we also found that men liked the movies as well. They rated how much they liked the movie at about 4.8, which is higher than most people would have guessed."
Harris said one of the most interesting parts of the study was that men and women both still used stereotypes when referring to each gender in general. Harris said that although men and women thought the specific man watching the movie enjoyed it, both still fell back on stereotypes when they were asked about whether or not men as a group would like the movie.
"When we asked both men and women how men in general would like the movie, both said that men would not like the movie, in spite of what they had just said about themselves or their dates," Harris said.
Both men and women, according to Harris, said women in general would like the movie, which was consistent with results for what the women said about their own enjoyment of the movie. Harris said that this view also is a stereotype, but one that the study supports.
The results of the study could be something moviemakers take into consideration when making a romantic movie, Harris said.
"Movie studios should recognize the fact that there is a moderate interest among men and add something to romantic movies that appeals to men," he said. "There are a lot of men who go to these romantic movies and enjoy them. I wouldn't write off the male audience just because it is a romantic film. I would suggest marketing to the men in the audience."
The study also showed that men and women used stereotypes when it came to guessing which scene their date would choose to play in the film. The most commonly selected scene was the romantic scene, which, according to Harris, wasn't unexpected because romance was the one thing that all the movies had in common.
However, most women selected a romantic scene for themselves and their date, but they guessed that their date would pick a sex scene, Harris said. While many men did select a sex scene, the number was not nearly as high as what the women had predicted it would be. Harris said these results are because both men and women were using stereotypes to guess what their date would choose.
"Men fell back on the stereotype that women love romance, and women did the same thing by thinking that men would be more interested in a sex scene," he said. "The biggest difference was that the men were right with the stereotype they used and the women weren't."
Harris' study was a follow-up to earlier research he did involving the viewing of violent films on dates, examining a genre that was considered to be mostly guy films. Harris said that's why he wanted to look at romantic films, which were considered to be mostly women's films. He found that the stereotypes with violent and romantic films are both followed and disregarded when it comes to selecting which movie to see on a date.
"We found that when seeing the film on a date, the decision about which kind of movie to attend is mostly made together as a couple and can go either way, but only if one party makes the decision, then they stay true to those stereotypes, with guys choosing to go to a violent film and women choosing a romantic film," Harris said.
Richard Harris, is a professor of psychology at Kansas State University.
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