26 February 2007

It pays to be picky in love

A study finds speed-dating singles who liked everyone were rejected as 'deseperate'.

Attention, speed daters: You need to be really choosy if you want a healthy love life.

That's the bottom line of a study from Northwestern University, in which researchers set up speed-dating sessions for 156 college students, then evaluated how the degree of the daters' selectivity affected the number of their matches.

Daters who picked most of the potential partners offered were often rejected, the researchers found.

"If you are unselective in your approach, people are going to be able to tell and are not going to like it," said Eli J. Finkel, a co-author of the study, due to be published in the April issue of Psychological Science.

In other words, he said: "You look desperate."

Don't appear desperate
For years, relationship experts have thought that one of the best ways to get someone to like you for platonic friendships, at least is to communicate your liking for them, said Finkel, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

But this evidently does not hold true for romantic relationships, the new study suggests.

"When you tend to like everyone in a romantic context, it doesn't have this 'What a friendly guy,' 'What a nice girl' tone," Finkel said. "It has a more desperate component to it."

And, he warned, "Even the slightest tinge of despair is not going to be appealing."

Be selective
In the study, the students talked for four minutes each with 9 to 13 opposite-sex persons, all potential "matches." After each meeting, they answered questions about whether they liked the prospective partner and whether they were sexually attracted. When they left, they recorded on a study Web site whether or not they would be interested in meeting the other people.

Mutual "yes" answers were given contact information for each other.

Selectivity turned out to be crucial in getting good matches, said Paul Eastwick, a Northwestern University graduate student who served as the study's lead author.

"We know that to the extent you liked everyone, you tend not to be liked," Eastwick said.

Selectivity worked, however. "If you go speed dating, and you like one [date] more than the other dates, that person is more likely to like you back," he said.

According to Eastwick, the study underscores "the importance of making a date feel unique or special even in the first four minutes."

His team didn't have any solid advice, yet, on what attraction "cues" work best in making couples click. But the researchers hope to audio and videotape dates to see what people are doing to convey "unique liking" as it is happening.

Don't play too hard to get
Another expert, Susan Sprecher, a professor of sociology and psychology at Illinois State University, Normal, praised the study's methodology.

She cited other research that found that playing hard to get with everyone didn't always work.

"But playing selectively hard to get does work," she said. The potential partner you like must get the idea that it would be hard for anyone else to get you, but not him or her.

(HealthDay News, February 2007)

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