Women Not So Picky About Men After All?

What Women Really Think
June 4 2009 8:58 AM

Women Not So Picky About Men After All?

An interesting new study reported on by Science Daily suggests that evolutionary psychologists might be wron g to speculate that women are choosier than men about mates. In the study, 350 undergraduates participated in a speed-dating situation in which women as well as men moved from prospective partner to partner. In typical speed-dating scenarios, the men move while the women stay put. This simple change had a profound effect on how women rated the desirability of their prospective dates. As the article puts it,

Regardless of gender, those who rotated experienced greater romantic desire for their partners, compared to those who sat throughout the event. The rotators, compared to the sitters, tended to have a greater interest in seeing their speed-dating partners again.

"Given that men generally are expected-and sometimes required-to approach a potential love interest, the implications are intriguing," Finkel [one of the study's designers] said.

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As regular readers of this blog know, I'm skeptical of most evolutionary psych explanations of "why" women are a certain way and men another, and it doesn't surprise me to find that what ev psych types want to see as "essential" behavior (women are choosier about partners because having a child involves more risk and investment for them) doesn't entirely hold up. It may be that women tend to be choosier and more passive about approaching mates for just this reason; but that is hardly a cut-and-dried social quality, as this study suggests.

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.

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