Conventional wisdom has long taught that one of the best ways to get someone to like you is to make it clear that you like them. Now researchers have discovered that this law of reciprocity is in dire need of an asterisk in the domain of romantic attraction.
The more you tend to experience romantic desire for all the potential romantic partners you meet, the study shows, the less likely it is that they will desire you in return. (Think too desperate, too indiscriminate.)
In contrast, when you desire a potential partner above and beyond your other options, only then is your desire likely to be reciprocated. (Think hallelujah, finally, someone really gets me.)
In the past, social psychologists have had a difficult time observing initial romantic attraction in action, but the speed-dating methodology used in this study allowed the investigators to take a serious look at the chemistry that has been at the center of so much literature, art and imagination throughout the ages.
"Potential partners who seem undiscriminating are a definite turnoff, and those who evoke the magic of feeling special are a big draw," said Paul W. Eastwick, the lead author of the study and a Northwestern graduate student in psychology. "The wild part is that our speed-daters were negotiating all of these subtleties with only four minutes for each date."
"Selective vs. Unselective Romantic Desire: Not All Reciprocity is Created Equal," by Eastwick and Northwestern's Eli J. Finkel, assistant professor of psychology, will be published in the April issue of the journal Psychological Science. Also contributing to the report are Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"How this all happens is a bit of a mystery," Finkel said. "Put you