Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Revisited: Do People Know What They Initially Desire in a Romantic Partner?

Paul W. Eastwick*, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In paradigms in which participants state their ideal romantic-partner preferences or examine vignettes and photographs, men value physical attractiveness more than women do, and women value earning prospects more than men do. Yet it remains unclear if these preferences remain sex differentiated in predicting desire for real-life potential partners (i.e., individuals whom one has actually met). In the present study, the authors explored this possibility using speed dating and longitudinal follow-up procedures. Replicating previous research, participants exhibited traditional sex differences when stating the importance of physical attractiveness and earning prospects in an ideal partner and ideal speed date. However, data revealed no sex differences in the associations between participants' romantic interest in real-life potential partners (met during and outside of speed dating) and the attractiveness and earning prospects of those partners. Furthermore, participants' ideal preferences, assessed before the speed-dating event, failed to predict what inspired their actual desire at the event. Results are discussed within the context of R. E. Nisbett and T. D. Wilson's (1977) seminal article: Even regarding such a consequential aspect of mental life as romantic-partner preferences, people may lack introspective awareness of what influences their judgments and behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-264
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume94
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • a priori theories
  • empathy gap
  • mate preferences
  • sex differences
  • speed dating

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