It’s been a while since I dove deep into scientific literature to bring you some interesting, useful insights. Today’s the day!
Here are some discoveries from the latest research conducted through controlled, speed-dating experiments by researchers.
In Western culture, both pop theory and recent behavioral research support the “nice guy stereotype,” suggesting that communal qualities that emphasize caring for others may be unattractive in men. Few studies, however, have examined the initial attractiveness of personality in other cultures through methods other than self-report. We tested associations between personal attributes (i.e., communal attributes, social desirability, self-esteem, narcissism) and speed-dating success (i.e., ratings of mate desirability) among young Asian Americans. Single Asian Americans (N = 262) went on speed-dates (N observations = 2,181) with members of the other gender and completed questionnaires about each date. Using the social relations model, we found that communal attributes (both self-rated and perceived) and self-esteem, but not social desirability or narcissism, contributed to greater speed-dating success for men and women. On the whole, contrary to the popular saying and previous findings among Europeans/European Americans, findings indicate that nice guys and gals can finish first.
My thoughts: These findings aren’t surprising to me. Nice guys finishing last is a common saying or belief , but in the dating advice world, many dating experts emphasize the nuance that women prefer someone who can be kind at the right moments and assertive at other moments. Hence, I haven’t seen being nice as a bad thing for a while. No one really breaks up with someone because they’re too nice. The sample size is too small to be conclusive, but 262 people is nothing to sneeze at and it’s difficult to get enough people, so I will give some weight to this study.
How do our feelings impact the romantic judgments and decisions we make? In a speed-dating context, where people have to judge potential romantic partners sequentially, we investigated whether and how participants’ prior affective state guided romantic desire toward and actual choice for an interaction partner. We found evidence for contrast effects, meaning that romantic judgments contrasted with the affective states participants were in at the start of a new interaction. The more positive (excited, interested, or happy) participants felt after one interaction partner, the less attracted they were toward a new interaction partner, and the more negative they felt (irritated or bored), the more attracted they were. The effect of negative emotions (NEs) was primarily visible in men, for whom more prior NEs even increased the chance of choosing an interaction partner at the end of the evening. The effect of positive emotions (PEs), however, had faded away when people chose their date at the end. Additional analyses revealed that specific emotions showed differential effects on romantic desire and actual choice and that contrast effects were mediated but not fully explained (at least in the case of PEs) by desire toward the previous interaction partner.
My thoughts: This one’s a bit confusing, so if there are any scientists out there who want to chime in and explain it, feel free. My big takeaway is it’s not conclusive, but it implies that if you’re positively jiving with one person, you’re less likely to jive with a new person who is trying to court you that comes into the picture. And if you’re really not feeling the current person, you’re more likely to be attracted to someone new.
Two studies investigated the role of dispositional social approach and avoidance motives (i.e., what people generally desire and fear in social relationships) for the decision to participate in a speed-dating event. In a sample of N = 205 college students (Study 1), approach motives were positively and avoidance motives negatively associated with the decision to participate in a speed-dating event. Focusing on the underlying processes, Study 2 (N = 153) showed that approach and avoidance motives were differentially associated with attributions of acceptance and rejection experienced in a previous speed-dating scenario. The higher participants’ approach motives were, the more they attributed acceptance to internal, stable, and global causes. Conversely, the higher participants’ avoidance motives were, the more they attributed rejection to internal, stable, and global causes. Attributions, in turn, predicted expectations for an upcoming speed-dating event, and positive expectations positively predicted decision for participating in the speed-dating event. Thus, what people generally desire and fear in social relationships influence relationship initiation through differential attributions of previous social success and failure and thereby expectations for the upcoming social events.
My thoughts: This one’s fascinating. It seems your beliefs, fears, and desires, essentially your thoughts about yourself, affect your success in dating. It does so through your thoughts on past experience and your expectations. Those who were more motivated to approach rather than avoid were likely to think about success and attribute it to internal and global causes.
Another point made in the study is that what is measured here is your motivation rather than your behavior. It explains how someone with high or low self-esteem can still approach depending on the situation (high-risk versus low-risk). It seems like developing a strong self-esteem has pay offs!
Once again the sample size is small and made up of college students. Keep in mind that the age and cultural background of those examined may play an influencing role. College students are in a different stage in their life than people in their 50’s looking to settle down. Here’s another one that I’d like another more knowledgeable reader to chime in (respectfully) in the comments in case I missed or misinterpretted something.
Speed dating research paradigms offer both high external validity and experimental control for studying romantic interest, an essential form of social bonding. While previous studies focused on the effect of social and personality factors on romantic interest, the present study investigated whether romantic interest can be (1) predicted by dyadic interactive body sway, and (2) be further promoted by groovy background music. Participants’ body sway trajectories were recorded during speed dating. Directional (communicative) body sway coupling, but not body sway similarity, predicted interest in a long-term relationship above and beyond rated physical attractiveness. In addition, groovy music promoted interest in meeting a dating partner again. Overall, we demonstrate that real-world romantic interest can be revealed by body sway interaction, potentially reflecting the quality of communication and perceived compatibility, and can be promoted by groovy music.
My thoughts: This is a fun, little study. The takeaway seems to be that your swaying abilities to groovy tunes may help you look more physically sexy and improve your chances of finding a long-term partner. Dancing in the same way as another may not. This one would’ve been surprising before I read What Women Want by Tucker Max, which briefly mentions that body movement presentation, through dance or other forms, indicates health, athleticism, and good mastery of your body, which are good biological indicators for attraction.
The present study employed a real-life speed-dating methodology with three conditions: a face-to-face (FTF) condition, a video-mediated communication (VMC) condition without eye-contact (Skype) and a VMC condition with eye-contact (an Eye-Catcher). The first aim of this study was to investigate the effect of eye-contact on the development of romantic attraction. Second, this study analysed the role of four interactive uncertainty reduction strategies (URSs) in the relationship between eye-contact and romantic attraction, namely (intimacy of) self-disclosure and (intimacy of) question asking. The results revealed no direct effect of eye-contact on romantic attraction. Moreover, there were more (intimate) self-disclosures in conditions with eye-contact, but fewer (intimate) questions asked. These findings suggest that communication conditions with eye-contact result in less information-seeking behaviour, in terms of question asking. However, people share more personal, intimate information about themselves to their interaction partner. Conclusively, eye-contact in initial interactions induces less uncertainty and more intimacy, compared to interactions without eye-contact.
My thoughts: Body language experts have said that eyes are the windows to your soul and that you should maintain eye contact for good first impressions. This study reveals that people seek out more information and ask more intimate questions when you offer less eye contact. That makes sense as there’s less trust and more uncertainty about who a person is. Surprisingly, eye contact itself doesn’t improve romantic attraction, at least in first interactions. Eye contact is more non-verbally expressive and intimate.
Men were generally more direct than women (e.g., by sending the first message), and those who discussed their mate preferences tended to report a higher likelihood of a second date than other participants.
My thoughts: I’m tempted to purchase the full paper on this one to see what other insights were found. The sample size is again small, but there are signs that could be indicative of a pattern. The experiment implies that, other than messaging first, being honest about what you want in a partner increases your chances on apps and websites like Tinder and Match.com.
People seek warm and trustworthy individuals as long-term mates for numerous reasons. Indeed, such individuals are prone to cooperation, have strong parenting skills, have the ability to fulfill our need to belong, and may provide a relationship that is characterized by greater closeness, protection, acceptance, and safety. Although prior work has shown that both sexes indicate equally strong preferences for these traits in potential mates, few studies have examined whether people actually respond favorably to partners high in warmth-trustworthiness in live mating contexts. We, thus, demonstrated that people’s stated preferences for warmth-trustworthiness (a) predicted their attraction to potential mates in a live mate-selection context (Study 1) and (b) interacted with their partners’ actual traits to predict satisfaction with their marriages (Study 2). Together, these studies demonstrate the importance of partner traits associated with warmth and trustworthiness and add to recent research suggesting that people can accurately report their romantic-partner preferences.
My thoughts: Demonstrating warm and trustworthiness actually helps for long-term relationships and those seeking long-term relationships! I hope people don’t react by saying this is common sense because I feel like many of those people are also quick to assume that being an asshole at all times succeeds (which is false).