BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Many people like to think they have discriminating tastes when it comes to romantic interests. An Indiana University study, however, found that men and women are greatly influenced not only by what their friends think of their potential fling or relationship partner, but also by the opinions of complete strangers.
"Humans don't exist in a vacuum. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that we have evolved mechanisms that let us take advantage of the additional social information in our environment," said Skyler Place, a researcher in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and lead author of the study along with Peter M. Todd, professor in IU's Cognitive Science Program.
"We might think that searching for mates is a process best done individually, that we can best gather the appropriate information by ourselves," Place said. But humans, like many other animals, also pay attention to the preferences of others, to make for a more efficient search process. Who others like might also be a good choice for ourselves."
The concept of "mate choice copying", where an individual copies the mate selections of others, has been widely documented in other species, particularly birds and fish, and has recently been looked for in humans as well. Place's study, published online and in an upcoming issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, is unique in that it exposed study participants to real mate choice scenarios via video of speed-dating couplings.
For the current study, 40 men and 40 women each watched video of eight speed-dating interactions. Speed dating involves sessions in which men and women have numerous "mini dates," each date lasting about three minutes. After every date, the men and women checked a box on a card noting whether they would like to see the other person again. Place and Todd describe such speed-dating events as a realistic microcosm of mate choice behavio
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