We’ve long been told that women are more selective when it comes to the men they choose to date.
But what if at least a part of that selectivity is due simply to environmental factors and social norms — factors that could be easily manipulated? For instance, might approaching — rather than being approached — in a dating situation make individuals less selective?
Finkel & Eastwick (2009) set about to answer just that question with an experiment designed to test whether a potential partner’s “choosiness” was due in part to whether they were the ones doing the choosing or not. They corralled 350 college students into 15 speed dating events for their study. Participants went on 4 minute “speed dates” with approximately 12 opposite-sex individuals during each event. After each date, participants rated their romantic desire and romantic chemistry for that partner, as well as how much self-confidence they felt that had on that particular “date.”
The researchers found that the speed daters who approached their partners relative to those who stayed sitting would experience a greater romantic desire and chemistry toward their partners, and were more likely to respond “Yes, I would see this person again” to their partners. In other words, the people who rotated from person to person were less selective than those sitting, regardless of which gender was doing the rotating.
When men rotated, women (the ones sitting) were more selective. But when women did the rotating, men (the ones sitting) were more selective. Nothing else changed in the experiment, so it was the act of doing the approaching (or being approached) that helped determine a person’s selectivity toward their partner.
The researchers noted,
Indeed, when researchers adopt a procedure without controlling for it, they risk missing a component of what they study. In this case, researchers just assumed that since men rotate in real-life, they should do so in speed-dating experiments. This may have skewed the results of past studies that used this speed-dating procedure, especially those that examined women’s “selectivity” — selectivity that may have been a result of the procedure itself, not the women.
Does this make nullify all previous research on women’s dating selectivity? The researchers draw mixed conclusions:
At the end of the day, more research is now needed to determine how much more selective women may be than men in dating situations. The current research calls into question the design of much of the past research in this area, so the answer has suddenly become a lot less clear.
Dr. John Grohol is the CEO and founder of Psych Central. He has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues, and the intersection of technology and psychology since 1992. This article was provided by PsychCentral.com.