With the advent of internet dating, romantic partners are often first experienced on the page rather than in person. In a new study, Paul W. Eastwick of the Department of Psychology at Texas A&M University examined how romantic ideals change from the printed profile to the in-person encounter. “Specifically, these studies tested whether the match between one’s ideal partner preferences and the traits that one perceives in a romantic partner predicts relational outcomes across several different contexts,” said Eastwick. “The present research examined the circumstances under which relational outcomes (e.g., romantic desire, commitment) are predicted by the match between (a) the traits that characterize one’s ideal romantic partner and (b) one’s perception of the traits of a specific individual who is or has the potential to be a romantic partner. We refer to this predictive association between ideal-perceived trait match and relational outcomes as the predictive validity hypothesis for ideal partner preferences.”
In a series of experiments, Eastwick evaluated romantic ideals in potential romantic partners and existing romantic partners. “Two attraction experiments in the laboratory found that, when participants evaluated a potential romantic partner’s written profile, they expressed more romantic interest in a partner whose traits were manipulated to match (vs. mismatch) their idiosyncratic ideals,” said Eastwick. “However, after a live interaction with the partner, the match vs. mismatch manipulation was no longer associated with romantic interest.” He also found that current partners were more romantically attracted to their mate if their ideals were similar overall. “In general, the match between ideals and a partner’s traits may predict relational outcomes when participants are learning about a partner in the abstract and when they are actually in a relationship with the partner, but not when considering potential dating partners they have met in person. Eastwick added, “Particularly when initiating relationships, it seems that potential partners who happen to match our ideal partner preferences get no preferential treatment from our hearts. But once a relationship has been established, the match between a current partner’s traits and the pattern of our ideal partner preferences may ultimately affect relationship well-being.”
Eastwick, Paul W., Eli J. Finkel, and Alice H. Eagly. “When and Why Do Ideal Partner Preferences Affect the Process of Initiating and Maintaining Romantic Relationships?”Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.5 (2011): 1012-032. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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