Podcast #474: The Surprises of Romantic Attraction

According to the popular, evolutionary theory of human attraction, people select romantic partners based on objective assessments of what’s called their “mate value” — the extent to which an individual possesses traits like good looks and status. But is that really all that’s behind the way people pair up?

My guest today has done a series of studies which add greater nuance to the mysteries of romantic attraction. His name is Paul Eastwick and he’s a professor of psychology at USC Davis. We begin our conversation unpacking the fact that there’s sometimes a gap between the sexual and romantic partners people say they prefer in the abstract, and the partners they actually choose in real life. We then turn to whether or not the popular idea that men value physical attractiveness more than women, and that women value status and resources more than men, is really true. We also talk about how people’s consensus over who is and isn’t attractive changes over time, and whether it’s true that people of equal attractiveness generally end up together. We end our conversation discussing how these research-based insights can be applied to the real world of dating, and why less attractive people may have better luck meeting people offline than on.

Some interesting insights in this show that lend credence to the old adage that there’s someone for everyone.

Show Highlights

  • What’s the accepted theory of how men and women are attracted to each other?
  • How “mate value” is calculated 
  • Is it true that men value physical appearance more than women?
  • The self-insight gap that plagues daters 
  • Why trait-based compatibility doesn’t give the full picture of a relationship’s potential
  • The importance of “fit” when it comes to compatibility
  • How physical attractiveness changes over time as we get to know people
  • Do equally attractive people always end up with each other?
  • What does modern science say about pick-up artist techniques?
  • Tips for how to think about modern dating apps 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

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