People commonly spend many hours perusing online dating profiles to search for someone who specifically matches their ideals. It seems that everyone has a preference for an ideal romantic partner. Perhaps they are attractive, trustworthy, or intelligent. But do we truly have such a unique taste, or we only want good qualities that everyone likes?
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggested that people’s preference for ideal partners is not that unique as people think.
The three attributes have little effect
More than 700 people participated in the research. Firstly, participants were requested to self-generated the ideal attributes that matter most to them, such as trustworthy, intelligent, or good-looking. Then they were asked to go on a blind date with strangers. All participants were required to rate the attributes about their dating and describe their romantic desire for dating. Finally, researchers compared the two data.
"The people in our study could very easily list their top three attributes in an ideal partner," said Jehan Sparks, the lead author of the study. "We wanted to see whether those top three attributes really mattered for the person who listed them. As it turns out, they didn't."
Overall, participants experienced more romantic desire to the extent that these personal acquaintances possessed the top three attributes. They thought those individuals possessed the ideal attributes they want.
"On the surface, this looks promising," Paul Eastwick, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology and co-author, said. "You say you want these three attributes, and you like the people who possess those attributes. But the story doesn't end there."
People all want partners who have positive qualities
The study also showed that the three attributes listed by a specific participant were also nominated by some other random participants in the study. For example, Mary said she liked people who were smart, funny, and trustworthy, while Kris also listed the three attributes as her own preference.
That means people may think their choices were unique, but actually they were not. "So, in the end, we want partners who have positive qualities," said Sparks, "but the qualities you specifically list do not actually have special predictive power for you."
Carefully choosing a partner is still necessary
What are the positive qualities that everyone wants? There are a lot: friendly, funny, intelligent, trustworthy, attractive, down-to-earth, thoughtful, grateful, honest, patient, brave, humble, knowledgeable. The list can be even longer.
If we only want partners who have positive qualities, does that mean there is no need for us to choose our partners carefully? Obviously, the answer is no. Besides positive qualities, other aspects, such as whether people can get along with each other, are important, too. This is definitely something that requires our efforts.
However, recognizing the fact that no one is unique shows an alternative method for those who like online dating. Sparks said, " Don't be too picky ahead of time about whether a partner matches your ideals on paper. Or, even better, let your friends pick your dates for you."