Wednesday, January 11, 2012

`Unconsciously, everyone wants a sexy partner`

What you say you want in a mate may not always match up with what you really want, especially when it comes to how sexy your potential partner should be, a new study has found.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Texas A&M University found that no matter how much people say they are looking for someone smart, who they can trust and laugh with, they have an unconscious desire to get a sexually attractive partner -- which applies both to men and women.

The researchers have even developed a quirky word test to figure out how important physical attraction is to a person, on an unconscious level.

"People will readily tell you what they value in a romantic partner," study researcher Eli Finkel of Northwestern University was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"But study after study shows that those preferences don`t predict whom daters are actually attracted to when they meet flesh-and-blood partners. Now we can get under the hood with this quirky methodology to see what people actually prefer in
live-interaction settings."

In several lab experiments, the researchers asked a group of students to complete computer-based word-association task, assessing how much they associate physical attractiveness with an ideal partner.

As words flashed on the screen, the participants had to pick those they associated with positive feelings. Depending on how strongly they felt about physical attractiveness, words associated with sexiness that popped up during an "I like"
trial were selected quicker.

The team then compared these results with participants` responses to direct questions about important characteristics in a partner. The two responses differed.

No matter if students thought they really needed a hot partner or not, they ended up responding the same to the word test, the researchers reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The unconscious word test matched with what the students were actually interested in when they met a real-life person in speed-dating scenarios.

"If a person tells me, for example, that she doesn`t care about how attractive a guy is, our research suggests that her claim isn`t worth all that much," co-researcher Paul Eastwick, of Texas A&M University, said.

"Instead, it would actually be more useful to measure her reaction times on this new task," he said, referring to the word-association.

This mismatch between what a person says they want in a mate and what they`re really looking for could be one reason online dating sites sometimes fall flat even with perfectly matched profiles, the researchers said.

"We are optimistic that something along those lines would do a better job of approximating face-to-face interaction and would be a more effective means of online dating," Eastwick said. "But we haven`t done any research on that."


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