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How many sex partners have you really had?

The answer, statisticians say, ought to be the same, on average, for any large group of men and women.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— But most surveys in the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations find that men report two-to-four times as many sexual partners as do women.

Are men lying to inflate their sexual reputations? Are women lying to downplay their sexual experience?

Psychologist Norman R. Brown, professor of psychology at the University of Alberta, believes this" macho and maiden" hypothesis is the wrong explanation. Most men and women don't intentionally misrepresent their sexual histories, he maintains. Instead, his studies show that male-female differences in the methods used to estimate the number of partners one has had is the major reason for the discrepancy.

"Women are more likely to rely on enumeration," said Brown, a visiting research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research." They tend to say, ?I just know,' and if you ask them to explain how they know, they say, ?Well, there was John, Tom, etc.' This is a strategy that typically leads to underestimation.

"Men are twice as likely to use rough approximation to answer the question. And rough approximation is a strategy known to produce over-estimation." (SOURCE: University of Michigan)

Photo: Fotolia

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