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Health & Sex

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Looking for Love Doesn't Take Long

Men and Women Can Assess Potential Mates in 3 Minutes or Less


Men who were more attractive, taller, and younger were chosen more frequently regardless of whether they were being selected by women who were similar to them in terms of physical attributes, although racial preferences were also prevalent.

A woman's desirability was also strongly related to her physical attributes, although her BMI (body mass index, a measure of weight in relation to height) played a bigger role, and it wasn't unusual for men to choose women who were thinner than they were.

Overall, men at events were strongly attracted to women who were thin, young, attractive, and of a similar race. Women preferred men who are physically attractive, tall, young, of medium build, and of a similar race.

Women's preferences didn't seem to be strongly determined by a single trait, but they were collectively driven by superficial appearance.

New Clues on the Dating Game

Researchers say the speed dating survey offered a unique opportunity to study how people actually behave when selecting a mate vs. how they say they would act in such situations.

"The actual behavior of people is worth more to us than their stated beliefs," says Kurzban. "In this case, because participants might suffer the consequences of a bad date with someone who might look compatible on paper, they had more incentive to follow their hearts and desires."

They say the results showed that both men and women are aware that they are in a market and know how to respond to market forces. For example, men and women who rated themselves low on desirability said "yes" to a higher proportion of potential dates.

Researchers say these results apply only to assessments men and women make in situations in which they are meeting potential mates for the first time and may not apply to repeated interactions.

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