Q: What are some of the factors that lead to attraction in a short time?
A: Speed dating studies give us an opportunity to examine some factors that cause initial attractiveness.
- Previous research has identified some strong ways that people become attracted to another. Here are some of them:
- “Birds of a Feather Flock Together.” Sometimes people become attracted to each other because they have things in common.
- This could be cultural background, shared hobbies, musical interests, movies that they both like, etc.
- In theory, if two people share the same interests, they’ll likely get along and have shared goals.
- Sometimes when a person finds out someone likes them, they start to like that person back.
- This is based on some solid psychological principles – people like to be flattered, and they like to be liked. We want to be around people who like us. Why wouldn’t we?
- Thus, expressing attraction, compliments, generosity, etc. may generate attraction in another person for you.
- This one is probably obvious. Attraction can just be about physical beauty.
- Previous research suggests that men are more likely to say that physical attractiveness is most important to them, but the evidence also suggests that when it comes to actual behaviors, men and women are more alike than different.
- People are attracted to physically attractive people.
- Finally, attraction can be caused by a desire for security.
- This isn’t exactly “romantic” in a warm fuzzy way, but if you think about it, it makes sense.
- People who can depend on each other, have shared goals, and are loyal to one another are going to be more attracted to each other.
- Likewise, a partner who offers no security, loyalty, dependability, etc. isn’t going to be that great of a partner, right?
- But of these various attraction mechanisms, which is at play when people meet for the first time? Which one is the most powerful? Is it different for men and women?
- Some researchers sought to answer these questions and the article was published in the Journal of Personality in 2009.
- The researchers recruited 108 heterosexual college students (half men, half women) to participate in a speed dating experiment. On average, they were around 20 years old.
- The experiment consisted of attendance at three sessions.
- At this session, participants completed a questionnaire about their backgrounds, opinions, values, interests, and personality.
- They were told the location and time of the dating activity and were dismissed.
- A speed-dating event was set up with groups of 10-20 individuals (half men, half women). Refreshments were served.
- Each participant got a name tag.
- Each participant spent 5 minutes with each member of the opposite sex.
- After each “date,” participants filled out a brief survey regarding the person they just met.
- Participants were told that if they wanted, they could get contact information for whomever they wanted after it was over.
- After the event, the participants all came back and filled out more detailed survey questionnaires about everyone they “dated.” The survey included whether they were interested in seeing each person again.
- First, the researchers just looked at the differences between men and women overall in their ratings.
- Men were taller and heavier. They engaged in more sports than women, while women engaged in more shopping, travel, art, and socializing.
- Personality-wise, women rated higher on extroversion and neuroticism (a broad category of mental illness) than men.
- Men consistently were more attracted to their dating partners.
- Then, the researchers looked at which factors were correlated with desire to date someone again.
- For women, only two characteristics were consistently correlated with attraction:
- Note that the following were NOT consistently connected with attractiveness for women:
- Interests (besides sports)
- Political opinions
- Personality traits
- In other words, women aren’t looking for many specific traits. Physical attractiveness and being athletic are consistently seen as attractive, but other than that, the other things could go either way.
- So, what about the big mechanisms of attraction (similarity, reciprocity, beauty, security)? Which ones were correlated with attraction?
- Were people more attracted if they were more like each other on all the various traits?
- Nope. Attraction wasn’t really connected to similarity.
- If one person liked their date, is their date more likely to like that person?
- Nope. In fact, the researchers found statistical evidence to the contrary: if a dating partner expressed that they liked their date, their date was LESS likely to say they liked the person.
- You can interpret this in a couple ways, but it’s evidence against reciprocity in speed dating.
- Just because you like your date doesn’t mean they’ll like you back automatically.
- We already went over the evidence here. Did physical attraction predict desire to go on another date?
- This was true for men and for women.
- Did women feel more attracted to men if they felt more secure with him?
- Female attraction was not correlated with feelings of security or feelings of attachment in either partner.
- A lot of scientific work was put into finding out the following:
- Women aren’t, overall, looking for any particular trait in men when speed dating.
- This is probably because each woman looks for unique traits, and these traits all wash out in the average.
- Men were more likely to all want similar things (low weight, taller, athletic, similar political opinions, certain personality traits, good mood, high self-esteem).
- Basically, men were more likely to want certain similar traits in women, while women each had unique things they were looking for.
- Security, reciprocity, and similarity didn’t matter to women.
- The only thing that consistently mattered for both men and women was physical attractiveness and athleticism.
- Should we be discouraged by these results?
- I don’t think so. We do have control over our attractiveness to a degree.
- The way we dress, carry ourselves, and portray ourselves can influence our attractiveness to women.
- Additionally, these results only apply to 5-minute speed dating. To make the biggest impression in that 5-minute period, physical attractiveness is the best way to do it.
Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What leads to romantic attraction: Similarity, reciprocity, security, or beauty? Evidence from a speed-dating study. Journal of Personality, 77(4), 933-964. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00570.x/abstract