Tag Archives: mate choice

Research Project Introduction

I’ve been writing a lot lately, then hiding it away in the hopes that when my mind clears enough, I’ll be able to refine what I want to say. One example, less personal than some of the other things I’ve been working on, is the introduction to the research paper I’m writing for my class this semester. This is only the first draft, but I thought I’d let you take a look. It’s meant to be understandable to anyone – straight-forward, concise, and jargon-free – so if it’s not, kindly let me know. Also, I included links to all of the reference sources that I could, and where I couldn’t I linked to the abstract, in case you wanted to check out the sources.


Attraction is the compulsion to seek the attention of a specific person usually, but not exclusively, for mating. It is a strong, inherent drive, which evidence indicates is an evolved mechanism to help us choose a partner that will provide the best combination of genes, resources, and care (Trivers, 1972). One manifestation of this is the near-universal preference that women have for a particular combination of youthful and mature male facial features as a way to identify mates that have an ideal combination of genes, youthful energy, resources and skills, as well as a caring and nurturing personality (Cunningham, Barbee, & Pike, 1990). The evolution of both short term and long term mating strategies indicates that there are often trade-offs when we seek certain parental qualities — such as physical beauty — over others, such as high-status or resources (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Thus, choosing mates is a challenging proposition.

Modern men and women still struggle to find the best balance when choosing between attractive mate and ideal parental partner. It is a search that is shifting from an in-person, physical process to one that is increasingly taking place online. Humans evolved to make mating choices in person, so making accurate assessments of physical, emotional, and economic attractiveness on an online venue is a new challenge to mate choice that is being researched (Merkle & Richardson, 2000).  One issue being investigated is how individuals rate choices for trustworthiness, interpersonal attraction, and the Big Five personality traits from various kinds of online dating profiles (Jin & Martin, 2015). What researchers are uncovering is that, in the kinds of information-poor environments where we are increasingly searching for our partners, that it is very difficult to predict with whom we will be compatible (Joel, Eastwick, & Finkel, 2017)

This difficulty is significant when approximately one-third of marriages that occurred between 2005 and 2012 began online (J. Cacioppo, S. Cacioppo, Gonzaga, Ogburn, & VanderWeele, 2013), and from 2013 to 2015, the use of online dating sites and dating apps increased approximately 36% for all age groups, and almost tripled for 18-24 year olds, according to data from the Pew Research Center (Smith & Anderson, 2016).

As Feingold (1992) points out, there is a complicated set of both attraction and non-attraction related factors that influence mate choice. Moreover, our initial perceptions of accessible traits (e.g. physical attractiveness) influence our perceptions of non-accessible traits that take more time and effort to discover (e.g. responsibility). The more time someone has invested in another person, the less likely they are to end a relationship when unfavorable information is discovered (Feingold, 1992).

In 1968, Zajonc introduced the idea of the mere-exposure effect, whereby individuals respond to repeated exposure to a stimulus with increasing positive affect. Harmon-Jones & Allen (2001) confirmed that the mere-exposure effect does successfully increase positive affect for stimuli. Lee (2001) further concluded that uncertainty reduction could explain the increase in positive affect. The amount of time a subject is exposed to stimuli also affects the amount of positive affect a subject feels for the stimuli. (Huang & Hsieh, 2012)

These stimuli are present on dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, where people indicate they are interested in meeting someone by swiping on the profile photo they are interested in. The photo is listed only with the name and age of the individual in the photo. If the individual in the photo also selects as attractive the person that thought they were attractive, the app gives them an opportunity to have a conversation to decide if they want to meet. Thus, with the increasing usage of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, the degree to which people seeking dates believe they can accurately assess attractiveness, and perhaps other qualities, at first glance is increasingly important. Additionally, the evidence that the amount of exposure affects how individuals feel about a stimulus has important implications for decision-making on dating sites like these.

We will seek evidence regarding the influence of the mere-exposure effect on the initial rating of male attractiveness by female subjects.  Consistent with the research on the mere-exposure effect, we hypothesize that subjects will rate the attractiveness of a photographed individual higher on a second viewing than they rated the individual on the first viewing, because the individual will seem more familiar (Zajonc, 1968).  If our hypothesis is correct, then the implication is that individuals using dating apps likely hold flawed assumptions about the value of rating attractiveness based on a single viewing, and the information influencing mate-choice-decisions provided by online dating sites like Bumble and Tinder are not reliably objective. This may have a significant impact on the way that people interact with dating apps in the future.


Buss, D.M. & Schmitt, D.P. (1993) Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204

Cacioppo, J,T., Cacioppo, S., Gonzaga, G.C., Ogburn, E.L., & VanderWeele, T.J. (2013). Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 25, 10135-10140. doi:10.1073/pnas.1222447110

Cunningham, M.R., Barbee, A.P., & Pike C.L. (1990). What do women want? Facialmetric assessment of multiple motives in the perception of male facial physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 61-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.59.1.61

Feingold, A. (1992) Gender differences in mate selection preferences: A test of the parental investment model. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 125-139. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.125

Harmon-Jones, E. & Allen, J.J.B. (2001). The role of affect in the mere exposure effect: Evidence from psychophysiological and individual differences approaches. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 889-898. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167201277011

Huang, Y.-F. & Hsieh, P.-J. (2013). The mere exposure effect is modulated by selective attention but not visual awareness. Vision Research, 91, 56-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2013.07.017

Jin, S.V. & Martin, C. (2015). “A match made online?” The effects of user-generated online dater profile types (free-spirited versus uptight) on other users’ perception of trustworthiness, interpersonal attraction, and personality. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18, 320-327. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0564

Joel, S., Eastwick, P.W., Finkel, E.J. (2017). Is romantic desire predictable? Machine learning applied to initial romantic attraction. Psychological Science, 28, 1478-1489. doi:10.1177/0956797617714580

Lee, A.Y. (2001). The mere exposure effect: an uncertainty reduction explanation revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1255-1266. https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672012710002

Merkle, E.R. & Richardson, R.A. (2000). Digital dating and virtual relating: conceptualizing computer mediated romantic relationships. Family Relations, 49, 187-192. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00187.x

Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2016, February 29). Fact Tank: 5 facts about online dating. Retrieved from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/5-facts-about-online-dating/

Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136-179). Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.

Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monographs,9(2, Pt. 2).

Love you all,