For this study, reported by New York, researchers questioned both men and women about their reproductive attitudes to find out when they’d like to marry and start a family, including how much they would be willing to adjust their requirements for a mate in order to start their family earlier.
They found that the sound of a clock ticking in the background influenced the answers women gave, perhaps because it served as a reminder of the passing of time.
“The very subtle sound prime of a ticking clock changed the timing with which women sought to have children and the traits they sought in potential partners — both central aspects of women’s mating-related psychology,” says Justin Moss, co-researcher on the study out of Florida State University.
“The findings suggest that a woman’s childhood years can interact with subtle environmental stimuli to affect her reproductive timing during adulthood,” adds co-researcher Joe Maner.
Men can typically father children well into their later years, so the researchers were not surprised that they were not affected by the clock sounds.
Among the women questioned for this research, those in the lower socioeconomic group were especially influenced. The clock sounds made a greater percentage of them anxious to get married and start their families even earlier, and they placed a lower priority on a mate’s status and earning potential than the women who were raised with more resources at their disposal.
New York mag writer Jesse Singal noted, “all sorts of subtle cues can affect how people will answer questions whether for an experiment or a poll.” Still, writes Singal, that’s “kinda weird. And if you’re in a relationship with a woman who’s unsure about having kids and you want them, it suggests an easy way to better your odds. To the clock store!”