Single men who perceive a shortage of available women are more likely to drain their bank accounts in an effort to make themselves appear more attractive to the fairer sex, according to new research on competition in the dating world.

In the first of two studies in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants read news articles describing their local populations as being either male or female-skewed, and were then asked how much money they’d save each month and how much credit card debt they’d take on. When men thought women were in short supply, guys decreased their savings rate by 42 percent and said they were willing to borrow 84 percent more every month.

And in the second study, participants viewed a series of photos that either had more men, more women, or equal gender ratios. The participants then chose between receiving a small amount of money immediately or a larger amount later on. When women were scarce in the photos, men were more likely to take $20 right away rather than $30 later.

Study researcher Vladas Griskevicius, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, said the results show that when there aren’t many women, men become more competitive, often using money, status and products to set themselves apart.

And their perceived need to do that wasn’t just imaginary — women in the study who thought they were outnumbered by men actually expected guys to spend more on courting-related expenses such as dinner dates and engagement rings.

“When there’s a scarcity of women, women felt men should go out of their way to court them,” Griskevicius said, concluding, “[If] we see that there are more men than women in our environment … it automatically changes our desires, our behaviors and our entire psychology.”