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'The Bachelor' got it right, study says; Vying for man brings out worst in women

A study suggests the catty behaviour seen on the popular reality TV show “The Bachelor” is pretty close to the truth.

A University of Ottawa professor says her study — published in the journal Aggressive Behavior — confirms that most women use aggression against sexual rivals.

Prof. Tracy Vaillancourt’s research took a look at how females compete with one another for the attention of males.

Her study concludes that “The Bachelor,” which follows the action as an eligible man chooses a partner from a group of women, provides insight into the tactics women use to compete.

The popular show illustrates how vying for the affections of an eligible man can bring out the worst in women, the study says.

Tactics can include gossiping about a rival’s supposed promiscuity or disparaging her appearance, so as to reduce her “mate value.”

Vaillancourt’s study suggests that this type of behaviour is not only a TV phenomenon, but also a reality in schools and workplaces.

Researchers conducted two experiments to examine the phenomenon.

In the first, women were paired with a friend or stranger and randomly placed in one of two situations. One involved an attractive female peer dressed in a sexy outfit and the other was the same peer, dressed conservatively.

In both situations, participants were secretly videotaped to capture their reactions. Meanwhile, other women were asked to rate each participant’s reaction in terms of aggression.

“We asked women who knew nothing about the context or reason for the person’s reaction to rate how ‘bitchy’ (or not) they thought she was being,” Vaillancourt said.

Results showed that almost all women were aggressive toward the attractive female who was dressed in a sexually provocative manner.

The study said the women in this situation were more likely to roll their eyes at their peer, stare her up and down and show anger while she was in the room.

When she left the room, many of them laughed at her, ridiculed her appearance or suggested she was sexually available.

However, when the same woman was dressed conservatively, the group barely noticed her and she wasn’t discussed after leaving the room, the study said.

The second experiment confirmed that the sexy colleague was indeed seen as a sexual rival by the other women, the study said.

Results indicated the women did not want to introduce her to their boyfriends, allow him to spend time alone with her or be friends with her.

All the women involved were below age 26, and close in age to the peer, Vaillancourt said.

The peer’s behaviour was the same in each scenario, she added, so researchers could be sure any judgment was due to her dress.

“We know that it’s the outfit that really set them off, and man, did it set them off,” she said.

After the experiment, during a debriefing process, some of the participants “had a giggle” about their reaction to the sexy peer, the professor said.

“They knew that they had been caught doing something inappropriate.”

While not a regular viewer of “The Bachelor,” Vaillancourt said it offers a good example of the type of aggression her research looked at.

“Any time I’ve mentioned it, people have mentioned reality TV shows that depict this sort of behaviour. So of course I’ve watched clips on YouTube and it’s very consistent with what we see in the lab.”

The article published in Aggressive Behavior is titled: “Intolerance of sexy peers: Intrasexual competition among women.”