Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What people say, and what they do   posted by Razib @ 2/13/2008 10:08:00 PM

What Men And Women Say And Do In Choosing Romantic Partners Are Two Different Matters:
When it comes to romantic attraction men primarily are motivated by good looks and women by earning power. At least that's what men and women have been saying for a long time. Based on research that dates back several decades, the widely accepted notion permeates popular culture today.

But those sex differences didn't hold up in a new in-depth study of romantic attraction undertaken by two Northwestern University psychologists. In short, the data suggest that whether you're a man or a woman, being attractive is just as good for your romantic prospects and, to a lesser extent, so is being a good earner.

You can read the full preprint yourself. The standard caveats about taking one social psychological study of 20 year old college students tracked for 30 days and generalizing apply here; the point isn't that this punctures all of the trends which we observe (I doubt it does), rather, it refines our understanding of the pattern of variation and the central tendencies as a function of particular parameters. Additionally, instead of just trusting what people say, and their own self-conceptions, you need to actually study how people behave. With something like sexual preferences inferring that one's avowed preferences don't match one's revealed preferences isn't that difficult; psychologists have to use more tricky techniques when it comes to something like fleshing out how people really conceptualize the God they say they believe in. But the general lesson holds.

Update: See this comment. Hey, it's social psychology....