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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Meeting in Bars | Online Dating Account Security

Quick Access:
People Who Hook Up in Bars

Security of Your Online Dating Account

Why do some people seem to hook up so easily in bars?


It seems like the answer should be quite simple and obvious, doesn’t it – something along the lines of “bars are a popular place for singles to congregate and mingle.” Well, that’s true, but there are other forces at work that may not be so obvious.

First, people who are in close proximity to us are more physically attractive to us than those who are not in close proximity. Research shows that merely being in the same general vicinity as another person can increase our over all liking for that person. The longer that two people are in close proximity, the greater the chance that they’ll end up liking each other. This classic principle in psychology is known as the “mere exposure” effect (2,3). In some cases, the mere exposure effect may extend to physical attractiveness. The longer we’re exposed to someone, the more likely we’ll come to find him or her physically attractive. This is especially true if we really like the individual’s personality traits or if we like the person as a friend.

Related to the above, people who are in our immediate focus of attention tend to be perceived as more physically attractive than those not in our immediate focus. Alcohol often helps focus this attention. Psychologist Claude M. Steele notes that alcohol narrows the attention span and that when people are intoxicated, they’re most responsive to things that are in the center of their attention as opposed to things in the periphery of their attention. So that helps explain why two people sitting close together find each other more interesting and/or attractive!

Then, too, is the effect called the “bar closing phenomenon”, that is having been unable to find a sexual partner who’s attractive to us, we suddenly become physically attracted to whichever people are left in the bar at the end of the evening—even if earlier in the evening we didn’t find them to be particularly attractive at all (1).


1 Gladue, B.A., & Delaney, H.J. (1990). Gender differences in perception of attractiveness of men and women in bars. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 16, 378-391.

2 Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 9 (2, part 2), 1-27. doi:10.1037/h0025848

3 Zajonc, R.B. (1970, February). Brainwash: familiarity breeds comfort. Psychology Today, 3 (9), 32-35, 60-64.

How can I tell if someone gained unauthorized access to my online dating account?
This is an aspect of security in online dating that’s not really being addressed. Some people may not see this as a priority issue, but it’s definitely a legitimate concern. I know of cases in which some people have gained access to another person’s online dating profile without proper authorization because of flaws in a company’s security settings. Therefore, read very carefully the privacy and security approaches used by the online dating site to which you belong.

Of course, there are things you can do as well to ensure your privacy and security, especially if you live with others who share the computer or might try to sign on:

» Ensure that a username and password are required when powering up your computer. If Windows loads without prompting for a password, one needs to be set by using Ctrl-Alt-Delete then the "Change Password" button.

» Avoid using the “Remember my password” option when logging into websites. While this adds an extra step it prevents someone who has gain access to your computer from getting to sensitive information.

» When not in use keep your computer logged out or turned off when not in use.

» Turn on the screen saver option (Control Panel->Display, Screen Saver Tab) and set the “On resume, password protect ” box. This will lock your computer in case you forget when leaving the laptop unattended. Also, choose to ask for a password when resuming from Standby. You can set this by clicking the "Power" button on the Screen Saver tab, then the "Advanced" tab and check the box "Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby."

» Limit the time you are connected to a public wireless network.

» If you’re going to leave a laptop in a hotel room; lock, logout or turn off the laptop and store out of sight.

» Avoid using older operating systems like Windows 95, Windows 98, etc. The company standard is Windows XP with Service Pack 2. If you’re using an older operating system, please talk to an expert about upgrading.

» Ensure that your computer has the latest security patches installed ( and make sure your anti-virus software is functional and up to date. Also make sure that firewall software is enabled and running on your system. FYI, Windows XP includes a firewall that is enabled by default.

Following these guidelines will help keep your personal information safe.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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