Admit it, we all keep a little black list somewhere in our minds that contains the must-have qualities of our ideal partner. Whenever we spot a potential “candidate”, we run them through our comprehensive list in hopes that one day we will find a closest exact match who we will proudly declare as the winner of our hearts. Or do we?
Yes, our preferences do may matter in selecting our potential mate – but opportunities matter just as much. According to a research study by UK economists, “the role of individual preferences is overshadowed by that of market opportunities.” This mate selection study from data provided by a large speed dating agency in UK allowed researchers to observe how the random allocation of participants across speed dating events correlated to positive match outcomes. The findings revealed the following:
We find that both women and men equally value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that there is positive sorting along age, height, and education. The role of individual preferences, however, is outplayed by that of opportunities. Along some attributes (such as occupation, height and smoking) opportunities explain almost all the estimated variation in demand. Along other attributes (such as age), the role of preferences is more substantial, but never dominant.
So, what does this all mean? Well for one, you are not going to come out empty-handed from a speed dating event due to lack of anyone embodying the qualities on your list of preferences. And in fact, you may not even be as aware as you believed about what influences your choice of romantic partners. Another study by Northwestern University psychologists scrutinizing romantic lives revealed that people’s preferences based on their live romantic interactions contrasted with the ideal preferences that they had previously reported. The authors note,
If you were to tell me that you prefer physically attractive romantic partners, I would expect to see that you indeed are more attracted to physically attractive partners.. but our participants didn’t pursue their ideal in this way. This leads us to question whether people know what they initially value in a romantic partner.
Knowing what you want is important, but are you clinging dearly onto your ‘dream list’ waiting in vain for ‘the one’ to come down with wings? You do not have to level down your standards but if you lower your gaze and look near, you may be surprised at all the opportunities for love you were missing out on.
Who knows, for all this time, your future wife or husband might have been sauntering very close by.
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