Negligible evidence that people desire partners who uniquely fit their ideals

Jehan Sparks*, Christine Daly, Brian M. Wilkey, Daniel C Molden, Eli J. Finkel, Paul W. Eastwick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Laypersons and scholars often presume that people positively evaluate partners who match their ideal partner preferences: If Faye prefers kindness in a partner and Sonia prefers ambition, Faye should be especially attracted to kind partners and Sonia should be especially attracted to ambitious ones. However, to date, most published tests of this idea are imprecise and permit multiple interpretations of the data. The current studies improve upon prior tests by (a) having participants self-generate the ideal attributes that matter most to them and (b) using a yoked design to isolate the predictive power of self-generated (vs. other-generated) ideal attributes. Overall, participants were more romantically interested in blind-date partners (Study 1) and acquaintances/friends/romantic partners (Study 2) to the extent that they thought those individuals possessed the ideal attributes. But the positive association of these attributes with romantic interest was identical regardless of whether the attributes represented the participant's self-generated ideals or someone else's ideals. We also used a novel coding scheme to organize participants' 1011 self-generated ideal attributes into 95 different attribute-categories; we then implemented three exclusion strategies (that differed in breadth vs. precision) using this scheme in order to maximize idiosyncratic variability between self- and other-generated ideals. All approaches revealed identical conclusions. Focused tests of ideal partner preference-matching may reveal that individual differences in ideal partner preferences poorly correspond to the attributes that uniquely inspire romantic interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103968
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume90
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Ideal partner preferences
  • Matching
  • Person perception
  • Predictive validity
  • Relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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