Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Perceiving Sexual Intent

  • Rachael CarmenEmail author
  • Haley Dillon
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1887-1



The phenomenon of perceiving another’s behavior as sexual.


In any one day, our activities often involve some sort of signaling to other individuals within our environment. Interactions with coworkers, friends, family members, partners, and even random strangers are a typical daily occurrence, yet the complexity of human interactions often leaves room for ambiguity. When it comes to interacting with potential mates, the ambiguity widens, sometimes resulting in the misinterpretation of signals between two individuals. A signal can be linguistic in nature, but it can also rest in body movement or a gesture at just the appropriate time. A smile and a touch on the leg can mean two very different things depending on the context. As humans, we have evolved behaviors to help us navigate the ambiguity of our complex behavioral signaling, but we will never be able to perfect a system by any means.

Error Management Theory and the...

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  1. Haselton, M. G., & Buss, D. M. (2000). Error management theory: A new perspective on biases in cross-sex mind reading. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 81–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marist CollegePoughkeepsieUSA
  2. 2.Dominican CollegeOrangeburgUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gary L Brase
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA