New Spin on Why Women Are Pickier in Love

It May Be Because Men Typically Initiate Relationships, New Research Says

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 05, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

June 5, 2009 -- Women tend to be more selective than men when choosing romantic partners. Though scientists have long chalked up women’s pickiness to evolution, new research says the explanation may be simpler. Men typically approach women first, and the act of approaching increases desire. The research has been published in Psychological Science.

Scientists have long held the following theory: Women are more invested in potential offspring -- at the very least, women carry a child for nine months of pregnancy -- and therefore want to choose a good partner.

But a new study suggests the difference in selectivity may be more trivial. Researchers at Northwestern University recruited college students for a speed dating event. There were 15 speed-dating events with 350 participants. Participants went on four-minute “dates” with 12 participants of the opposite sex. For some events, women rotated and therefore did the approaching, while the men sat still. At other events, men did the approaching.

After each “date,” participants answered three questions about their romantic desire for the other person, romantic chemistry for the date, and their level of self-confidence on that date. After the event, study participants reported whether they would or wouldn't like to see each of their speed dates again.

Regardless of gender, those who rotated experienced greater romantic desire, chemistry, and eagerness to see a speed date again compared to those who sat. Those who did the rotating, or approaching, also reported more self-confidence than those who sat still during the speed dates.

"Given that men generally are expected -- and sometimes required -- to approach a potential love interest, the implications are intriguing," Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study, says in a written statement.