Women have gotten used to hearing about how “picky” they are, thanks to “well established evolutionary explanations” that point to women as the more discerning sex because of our irksome, responsibility-laden wombs. (Hmmm, should I select the toothless, out-of-work alcoholic with anger issues as the future father of my child or go with the reliable bank vice president with green eyes and a fabulous smile?)
But new research out of Northwestern University suggests that choosiness in mate selection has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with power. According to a story in Science Daily, when researchers assigned women the “traditionally male role” of approaching romantic partners, they were “not any pickier than men in choosing that special someone to date.”
The research, conducted during a speed dating event (a phrase that totally makes me yearn to become a social scientist), featured 350 undergrads who each took turns at the “dominant dater” role. In half the events, the men moved from table to table while the women stayed put. In the other half, women roamed the joint, hopping from date to date. Afterwards, everybody provided info about their various encounters, including their level of romantic interest, whether they’d like to see the person again and how self-confident they felt about the whole she-bang (so speak). And that’s where things got interesting, i.e.,
Regardless of gender, those who rotated experienced greater romantic desire for their partners, compared to those who sat throughout the event. The rotators, compared to the sitters, tended to have a greater interest in seeing their speed-dating partners again.
Associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study Eli Finkel explained it thus: “The mere act of physically approaching a potential partner, versus being approached, seemed to increase desire for that partner.” He went on to talk about how “our physical activity and psychological processes interface in ways that are outside our conscious awareness” and emphasized that the results of this study “strongly suggest that the mere act of approaching a potential love interest can boost desire.”
In other words, sitting around passively waiting for Mr. Right to approach may mean you’ll be stuck in that chair for months (or even years). Walking across the room to chat up some guy, on the other hand, may magically turn him into Mr. Right. Voila!
Here’s hoping the speed-dating outfits will take note and revamp the whole “ladies in waiting” motif they seem so fond of (sounds like it would produce a lot more happy customers). And that women everywhere will realize that true love may not be so much about pickiness, but about pickups.