Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Role reversal undermines speed-dating theories

Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature There's a theory of speed dating? Who knew??
Nature News has this article: Role reversal undermines speed-dating theories.

Speed dating is not just popular among those looking for romance. Psychologists have worked out that they can get swarms of student participants in mate-choice studies by offering speed-dating opportunities on university campuses in return for the right to analyse the dating behaviour during the events.

A study in Psychological Science points out that chivalric behaviour created by the speed-dating experience may be skewing the data.

Normally in speed dating, men walk around a room and visit a succession of seated women for mini dates just a few minutes long. Later, the participants note down whom they would like to meet again. If there is a match, the organizers help the people to get in touch. Psychologists have found that although men choose, on average, half of the women present, women choose to see only a third of the men again.

This isn't really a surprise. Among animals, females are usually the picky ones, because they make the larger reproductive investment. However, the new research, by Eli Finkel and Paul Eastwick, social psychologists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, demonstrates that tinkering with the speed-dating format alters human behaviour, dramatically changing the outcome.

"We asked executives from a commercial speed-dating company why they always had men rotate. They told us it was because women tend to have purses and other things to carry and because 'it seems more chivalrous'," says Eastwick. So the researchers decided to explore whether having males literally walking up to seated females was having a psychological effect.

The researchers established 15 speed-dating events for 350 young adults. During eight events, men rotated around the seated women, and during seven events, women moved between seated men. When men rotated, men said yes 50% of the time and women said yes 43% of the time. However, when women rotated, the trend for higher female selectivity vanished, with men saying yes 43% of the time while women said yes 45% of the time. [More at Nature.]

So now I know something I didn't know before; Not only does half* of what we know from psychology experiments come from studies of college students, but most of those student are hormone impaired.

* the other half comes from rats.
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