"Let's face it, even today, there is a huge difference in terms of who is expected to walk across the bar to say 'hi,'" added Northwestern's Paul Eastwick, the study's other co-investigator.
The study is forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Three hundred fifty undergraduates were recruited for the study's speed-dating events. In half of the events, the men rotated while the women sat. In the remaining events, the women rotated. Following each four-minute "date," the participants indicated their romantic desire in that partner and how self-confident they felt. Following the event, the students indicated on a Website whether they would or would not be interested in seeing each partner again.
When the men rotated, the results supported the long-held notion of men being less selective. When the women rotated, this robust sex difference disappeared.
The study draws upon embodiment research that suggests that physical actions alter perception. In one such study, for example, participants who were told to pull an unrelated object toward themselves while evaluating Chinese ideographs rated them as prettier than participants who pushed an unrelated object away from themselves while viewing the symbols.
"The embodiment research shows that our physical activity and psychological processes interface in ways that are outside our conscious awareness," Finkel said. "In conjunction with this previous embodiment research, our speed-dating results strongly suggest that the mere act of approaching a potential love interest can boost desire."
The researchers suggest that confidence also may have affected the results. Approaching a potential date increases confidence, which in turn makes the approacher less selective.
The study presents a clear example of how inconspicuous gender norms (having men rotate and women sit) can not only affect the ou
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