People Are Making This Mistake In Bed Every Day, And It's Making Us Sick

You use this cognitive function all the time, but using it to make sexual decisions can get you sick or dead. Dr. Doe gives you an easy way to trick your brain into keeping your privates safe. (Stick it out for an adorable dog moment at the end.)

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Dr. Lindsey Doe: You've heard of "commonsense rule of thumb" and "educated guess?" All of this falls under the category of heuristics. They're tools we use to problem-solve by drawing on our experiences and our surroundings.

I'm just going to put out there that they're not the optimal solution, but they're so much faster than a full-on search for the truth. It's like taking mental shortcuts.

Here's an example: You're in the grocery store, and you want sauerkraut. Where is the sauerkraut? Is it with canned vegetables, because cabbage, or is it with the condiments, like other things that you put on a bratwurst?

Finding crap this way is not a research-based conclusion, but it's easy, it's efficient, accessible, and with very little work, boom, you've got an answer. When your brain is using these quick tricks of reasoning, it's using heuristics.

All right. So, all of this happens with sexuality too. There are completely unscientific ways that we get to answers, make sexual decisions. We know we could be off, but it's so much easier this way.

Here's how the brain on heuristics responds to sexual scenarios:

The person looks clean, showered, put-together, well-dressed - no diseases.

The person doesn't try to seduce me - he must not want me.

She's not insisting on a condom - must be on the Pill.

When should I call? - three days later.

Am I pregnant? - not if I get my period.

Kissing now? - sexy time later.

She's bi - threesome!

No! Just because a person is attracted to guys and gals, does not mean that they're interested in having sex with more than one person at a time.

And this is not the only error that you're making. Most of the time, heuristics are going to turn out OK, but they can be very troublesome if you have to be right. Wrong aisle at the grocery store? Eh. Wrong call on what the nonverbal meant? Big deal. If you have the time and ability to gather information, look at all your options and come up with the best solution to something critical. Don't rely on heuristics.

I'm going to give you some information and better solutions:

The person looks clean, showered, put-together, well-dressed - no diseases. No. You ask. You get tested, you wear protection.

Fact: Due to the halo effect, we apply our surface impression of someone to their entire character. Studies have concluded that we judge pretty people as being smarter, nicer, and healthier than others.

If the person doesn't try to seduce me - must not want me. It is absolutely OK to ask, verbally or non-verbally. And by non-verbally, I mean something like ...

She's not insisting on a condom - must be on the Pill. Wear a condom anyway, and ask for more information, including what her STI status is. This is going to be a much easier conversation to have than the one about the herpes outbreak or the fetus that you're fathering.

When should I call? Mm. Three days later. Who came up with that? Fine. Keep it as a heuristic. It's not even a matter of consequence.

Not pregnant if I get my period. For some women, they experience decidual bleeding, which feels like a period and looks like a period and can happen every single month of the nine months of pregnancy. You think, "I'm not pregnant," but your biology would say, "Yeah, you are." Here's a true rule of thumb. If you don't know the answer, ask more questions. Go to the gynecologist.

Ask your girlfriends. Research it online. Pass a note: "Do you like me or not?" Run your brain. That fine investigative system has the optimal option. I don't want to take heuristics away from you. They are incredibly valuable. I just want you to use them wisely. Don't be lazy. Try something like the Chinese: This is what the erections will look like in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s. Stay curious.

A tool that allows you to make quick judgments ... a problem-solving tool that allows you to make ...

Nicholas Jenkins: Sorry. Abby, you've got to get out of here. Come here.

Dr. Lindsey Doe: You can't eat the diapers.

Nicholas Jenkins: Come here. Come here. There's no hurry in this dog.

Dr. Lindsey Doe: Mm-mm.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Video by Sexplanations with Dr. Doe. You can follow her on Twitter.

May 14, 2014

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