Galactic Interactions

I haven’t read the study— it would take some digging to find, after all!— only the CNN Article, but the title sums up half of the results: “Men want hot women, study confirms.”

In a nutshell, the study found that in a speed-dating test, men, despite what they said they were looking for, almost always went for the most physically attractive women (measured I am not sure how). Women, meanwhile, went for a man whose “desirability” (again, measured I am not sure how) matched their own assessment of how attractive they are.

The conclusion the article claims is that humans, despite high-minded language about looking for people who share their interests and values, seek out mates based primarily on physical attractiveness.

I want to suggest an alternate hypothesis. That is, “speed dating” is a shallow process that leads people to making judgments based on shallow criteria. Seems possible, no? I mean, even after an intense 3 minutes of conversation, can you really do a whole lot better judging how interested you are in a person than you can viewing a photograph?

It always bothers me to see news stories making (or just accepting) facile conclusions that come from studies where there are obvious potential biases built in to the methodology of the study without even acknowledging that that is something that one should think about.

Update: There is some analysis of what makes a face attractive, inspired by this same news story, at The Anterior Commissure. Hat tip: Cognitive Daily.

Comments

  1. #1 csrster
    September 5, 2007

    True, although I’m equally bothered that people do these stupid studies in the first place.

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    September 5, 2007

    I dunno. It’s sociology — the answers to some of the questions they are trying to ask are interesting.

    For instance, I’d be interested in seeing a real study that compares how effective “speed-dating” is to finding a long-term partner (either a mate, or somebody you date for more than a few months) as compared to, say, picking people up in a bar, meeting people at church, or meeting people in another extracurricular/social context (for me, that would have been in an orchestra, plays I was in, etc.).

    I have this suspicion that “speed-dating” is one of those things that sounds good but is really not worth squat. But I don’t really know. (And, really, I don’t care that much, what with being married and all. But, still, all that hype makes me suspect there’s nothing behind it.)

    -Rob

  3. #3 Astrogeek
    September 5, 2007

    I seem to recall that what men find attractive (seductive?) in the female form hasn’t changed much over time and is fairly consistent across cultures, which is a certain proportion between bustline, waistline and hips. Women, on the other hand, tend to judge attractiveness on various criteria, many of which are culturally defined.

    I wish I had the references for this, but I can’t seem to find them at the moment.

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    September 5, 2007

    “speed dating” is a shallow process that leads people to making judgments based on shallow criteria

    I think this is most likely to be the correct explanation. I’ve never tried speed dating myself, but I don’t expect that I could determine whether a given person has the character traits I find desireable from a three minute conversation. I might be able to eliminate some obvious bad matches from consideration, but I really wouldn’t have much to go on, apart from physical appearance and first impressions. I can predict how I would react in such a scenario: roughly how the male subjects of this study reacted.

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    September 5, 2007

    One possibility is that the women are the ones doing the filtering. Men seek out the hottest thing that moves, and women choose which man they want using their own criteria (these criteria, however, are also rather shallow).

    Still, I wouldn’t completely knock speed dating. It’s just an introduction; you still need to get to know each other better before deciding whether to take the next step. If I wasn’t happily married I might give it a try. At least it’s a way to filter out uninterested/unavailable people.

  6. #6 kate
    September 5, 2007

    “That is, ‘speed dating’ is a shallow process that leads people to making judgments based on shallow criteria”

    this might be a bit of a reductionist or oversimplistic response, but just read malcolm gladwell’s “blink”. it’ll make you think different about what you can – and can’t – take for granted in your initial impressions of someone. an unbelievable amount of these impressions, it seems, is out of our conscious control.

    and doesn’t it seem to make intuitive sense that mate preference or attraction would fit the bill of automatic, subconscious reactivity?

  7. #7 Rob Knop
    September 5, 2007

    and doesn’t it seem to make intuitive sense that mate preference or attraction would fit the bill of automatic, subconscious reactivity?

    Attraction, yes. Mate preference, no.

    What’s short-term attractive to you is different from what makes somebody good to build a life with– at least, that’s what’s intuitive to me.

    And, clearly, it’s a hard thing to figure out — witness how many marriages fall apart in the first year or two.

    -Rob

  8. #8 Shelley Batts
    September 6, 2007

    I think you’re right on Rob. When I read the paper, other that noting that it was a rehash of studies already done since before I was born, was that the speed-dating paradign was a terrible choice of modeling social interaction. For the very reason you stated above. It prejudices someone to only be able to base judgements on what you can perceive of them in 10-15 minutes. And what do you think that is?

  9. #9 DuWayne
    September 7, 2007

    I don’t know that I’d knock speed dating altogether. Though I would say it’s not for me, even were I single, it’s probably better than going into dates through dating services blind.

    I don’t know if this is indicative of speed dating in general, but one of the men in my church really liked it. They give him the standard dating service profiles of all the women who will be in a session, sans names, so he knows at least some of the women will likely be compatible. After the session (he’s done three) they take the card and eliminate the profiles he absolutely did not want to date (in his case, the one’s who aren’t seeking husbands). He gets a couple of dates out of it and can get a better idea then. Of course, he has yet to go out with any of them more than once, but he still claims that it really works for him.

  10. #10 Chris
    September 8, 2007

    It always bothers me to see news stories making (or just accepting) facile conclusions that come from studies where there are obvious potential biases built in to the methodology of the study

    Hmph! How can you possibly assume that there are biases built into the study when you’ve only read a pop news story about it? Read the study, you jerk!

  11. #11 Justin Moretti
    September 9, 2007

    Of course men want hot women. The fact that scientists and other highly educated people also want their hot women to have at least half a mind and something approaching a real personality is another matter altogether.

  12. #12 Sally
    September 11, 2007

    I agree that on the first meeting men amd women evaluate only the apperience of each other. But by the time physical attractiveness becomes not so important. Relation goes on emotional level.

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