Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Speed dating data (12 Nov 2007)

Here, for what its worth, is a Slate article by a researcher who investigated whether the practices of speed daters confirms certain gender stereotypes with regard to dating in general:
With the obvious qualification that we're talking here about a four-minute version of love and dating, we found that men did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner's beauty, when choosing, than women did.... By contrast, intelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women's choices as men's. It isn't exactly that smarts were a complete turnoff for men: They preferred women whom they rated as smarter—but only up to a point.... The same held true for measures of career ambition—a woman could be ambitious, just not more ambitious than the man considering her for a date.
When women were the ones choosing, the more intelligence and ambition the men had, the better. So, yes, the stereotypes appear to be true: We males are a gender of fragile egos in search of a pretty face and are threatened by brains or success that exceeds our own. Women, on the other hand, care more about how men think and perform, and they don't mind being outdone on those scores.
But the obvious qualification mentioned -- that we are talking about the snap judgments of people willing to be speed daters -- would seem to go a long way toward making these findings sort of meaningless. How much insight can one really get into a conversation partner's intelligence and ambition in four minutes in a bar? You could spend several months actually dating someone and not establish an accurate assessment. And any situations where snap judgments are required are going to intensify the significance of appearances -- not merely beauty (which was in this experiment apparently adjudicated by research associates following their own whim) but also the outward signifiers that connote intelligence or ambition or whatever. And this among a populace that is especially attuned to such things, to reading situations immediately rather than allowing for interpersonal nuances to play themselves out and tell their own idiosyncratic story. So of course these rapidly told tales will tell the story that's readily available as a shared cultural narrative, using gender stereotypes. It seems as though the caveat makes this research into something that merely serves a dubious and ideologically-striated entertainment function, that of reminding would-be daters of the games they are expected to play to help perpetuate the existing regime of gender relations.

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