Scientists have long been puzzled by a basic contradiction: Men brag about having lots of sex partners, but women claim to have sex with fewer men, so one group has to be lying. Are men bragging or are women being discreet?

Terri Fisher and Michele Alexander gave women a fake lie detector test and came to the conclusion that it?s the women who are lying about their sex lives. The number of sexual partners woman reported having doubled when they thought they were hooked up to a lie detector.

Fisher and Alexander gave questionnaires to over 200 unmarried, heterosexual college students aged 18 to 25. One group was told the researchers would read their responses, while a second group filled in the survey anonymously. A third group had electrodes placed on their hands, arms and necks and were told they were attached to a polygraph, although there was actually no working machine.

Women who thought their responses might be read said they had had an average of 2.6 sexual partners, compared with 3.4 partners for those who whose answers were anonymous. But those who thought they were hooked up to a polygraph reported an average of 4.4 partners.

When the same survey was done with men, their answers didn?t vary significantly. Those attached to the lie detector reported an average of 4.0 partners compared with 3.7 for men who thought their answers would be read.

So what turns women on? Researcher Morris Gosling asked 90 women to rate the facial attractiveness of 76 men, but he only showed them their cheeks. When DNA tests were done on the men, he found that the ones with cheek appeal also had the strongest immune systems.

“Their assessments of healthiness and attractiveness were related to the genetic composition of these men,” Gosling says. “The genetic variation was in the part of the genome that codes for immune function.” Female cardinals are attracted to the reddest males, and it turns out they have the best immune systems, so why shouldn’t it work that way for humans too?

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