Vedantam interviews social Dutch psychologist Joris Lammers who finds activation in the brains of both men and women quickly shifts from areas associated with risk aversion (staying out of trouble) to those associated with reward seeking (getting laid) when subjects are given just a little bump up to their sense of power.
Even more interesting, Jon Maner, at Florida State, finds that students given a brief feeling of power were more likely to start flirting with an opposite-sex stranger sitting next to them. Add power, the flirting rises. Subtract power, it dips. "Power-holders tended to touch their subordinates more, they maintained more direct eye contact. They behaved in an overall more flirtatious manner," says Manner. Men and women both, and to the same degree.
And the more power Maner's subjects have, the more likely they are to overestimate their own desirability and to interpret the behavior of others as flirtatious. In other words, says Vedantam, "when you say 'hello' to someone, an ordinary person thinks you said "hello." A powerful person thinks you meant 'hel-lo.'" It doesn't take a lot of power, either. "A small amount of money in a short laboratory interaction was sufficient to elicit this overestimation of sexual interest," says Maner.