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What Men Want, What Women Want
Sorry to be a little behind in putting blog items up today...but, here's study by three economists of 400 speed-daters. Columbia B-school prof Ray Fisman writes on Slate:

Speed dating is matchmaking on, well, speed—each male-female pair (we stuck to heterosexual couples) meets for four minutes to size each other up, at which point a whistle blows, signaling the men to get up and move on to the next woman. After each "date," participants decide if they'd like to see their partner again. For our study, we also asked them to rate their partners' intelligence, looks, and ambition after each meeting. Each event had between 10 and 20 daters of each gender, and in the course of the evening, every man met every woman and vice versa.

After two years of serving as academic love brokers, we had data on thousands of decisions made by more than 400 daters from Columbia University's various graduate and professional schools. By combining all of our choice and ratings data with separately collected background information on the daters, we could figure out what made someone desirable by comparing the attributes of daters that attracted a lot of interest for future dates with those that were less popular.

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. We also found that women got more dates when they won high marks for looks from research assistants, who were hired for the much sought-after position of hanging out in a bar to rate the dater's level of attractiveness on a scale of one to 10.

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. In a survey we did before the speed dating began, participants rated their own intelligence levels, and it turns out that men avoided women whom they perceived to be smarter than themselves. 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.

Thanks, Rodger

Posted by aalkon at November 8, 2007 12:43 PM

Comments

Yay, my brain is wired backwards! But then I've always known that, having only ever been attracted to intelligent and egotistical women of achievement, scrambling to the top of their hierarchy with steely eyes and a dagger clenched in their teeth. Sorry but it's just so sexy.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 1:29 PM

Wasn't there just something about you and doggie-style in another entry?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 1:43 PM

That was reverse doggie.
This isn’t the first study in this area. There has been one that made the rounds on all of the discovery/science type cable channels. It found that what men considered beautiful was tied to the magic bust/waist/hip ratio which in its self was tied to fertility or in other words ability to bear children. So should we be at all surprised to find this evolutionary foot print on man? Also, this study included tribal participants that had never seen a TV or any other type of marketing. Yet the men st5ill had the same beauty opinions as there advertisement saturated counterparts.
For women it found some what the opposite. Women were attracted to men they viewed as providers, and I don’t mean financial providers. This is also an evolutionary footprint.
So is there anything here that we didn’t already know? Wouldn’t a four minute date have to rely overwhelmingly on those instincts? I mean four minutes is not enough time to think anything out so why wouldn’t those instincts prevail?

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 1:53 PM

Posted by: Crid at November 8, 2007 2:00 PM

Funny Crid

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 2:07 PM

Hilarious. PS Although, I'm more on the man side when it comes to their thought bubbles.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 2:39 PM

Rusty, Crid howls like a stuck dog every time I bring up WHR ratio research, first done by Dev Singh, confirmed by Satoshi Kanazawa, and now updated by Steve Gaulin at UCSB.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 2:41 PM

Aarrrrrrrr-ooooooooooooouuuuughhh

Posted by: Crid at November 8, 2007 2:50 PM

Well for what ever it is worth, not much since I have been married twenty-five years, every time I dated a brilliant girl I got my heart ripped out. The wander, they are never content and I am not sure that even they know what they want. Don’t get me wrong. My wife is very smart; she speaks four languages, almost five. But when you have studied medicine and Physics your whole life you know some brilliant ones. So I started to look for ones that had a lot of emotional love to give rather than uncanny incite to physics problems. The ones with a whole lot of love to give make the best moms.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 3:15 PM

Aarrrrrrrr-ooooooooooooouuuuughhh

As predictable as Britney Spears urine tests!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 3:17 PM

The ones with a whole lot of love to give make the best moms.

Some men do want to marry their mother. I've worked hard to avoid them!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 3:18 PM

I love my mother.

Posted by: Crid at November 8, 2007 3:25 PM

Ha,
Well I don’t see how a concern for the raising of your future children dove tails to that swipe but no. I am a mean bustard so I had to have some balance when it comes to the kids. Other wise I would be up on charges for making their lives miserable. Must have been to much football are mabey my dad waked me up side the head one time to many.
No my main point is that I found overly smart women to never know what they want so I quit dating them. I still love to hang out with them; I just would never start dating one. Been there one two many times. They are a pain in the ass. I suspect other men have had the same experience so they gravitate away from them.
It is like avoiding gold diggers.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 3:28 PM

We have very old psychology, which is all about passing on the genes. Our genes don't know from birth control.

I think I am probably a pain in the ass -- scared off a lot of guys. And then I met Gregg, who found the idea that he would find me scary rather hilarious.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 3:35 PM

Hmmm, and then again, I'm extraordinarily low maintenance on many levels. You don't have to buy me jewelry, I don't want to get married, I don't want children. And I won't snarl at you for off-color jokes (I love them). And I don't want to "reform" anybody.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 3:37 PM

Well I don’t know. You’re not a physicist are you? Got to go to Scotch tasting.

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 3:39 PM

Hmmm, and then again, I'm extraordinarily low maintenance on many levels. You don't have to buy me jewelry, I don't want to get married, I don't want children. And I won't snarl at you for off-color jokes (I love them). And I don't want to "reform" anybody.

Aarrrrrrrr-ooooooooooooouuuuughhh

Posted by: rusty wilson at November 8, 2007 3:44 PM

Well I don’t know. You’re not a physicist are you? Got to go to Scotch tasting.

Are Scots especially tasty?

Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Have a boyfriend.

I do love when boys howl at the moon.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 3:57 PM

"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."

This is a bit off. I suspect that it isn't merely that women "don't mind" being outdone on those scores - rather, I think the average woman would not respect a man who was not at least her equal in these areas, and respects a man even more who excels in them - even if his excellence outstrips her own. From this perspective, the normative and pejorative assessment of men given above (fragile egos in search of a non-threatening pretty face) is absurd. Instead, I think the male preferences found in the study reflect the fact that at some level men understand that women are not usually interested in men less ambitious and intelligent than themselves, which means that a woman who outstrips a man in these areas is probably not a viable choice of partner for that man. Bottom line, the relationship probably won't work out. Recognizing this isn't a sign of fragility or insecurity - it's just pragmatic.

All of this may not by PC, but it nonetheless represents a successful evolutionary survival strategy. A woman maximizes the chances that she and her offspring will be well provided for by selecting the most ambitious and intelligent mate she can find.

Of course this kind of reasoning is anachronistic and obsolete in our current society where the necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter, education, etc. are pretty much available in more than adequate quantities for all regardless of intelligence and ambition. Given the unprecedented level of material prosperity we have achieved, we can allow ourselves the luxury of choosing mates by other criteria. But the criteria described above are, to a certain extent, hard-wired.

So, just because we have progressed economically and socially since the days of our Paleolithic forebears doesn’t mean that we have changed biologically. We are still subject to the same impulses that facilitated the survival of our ancestors and ensured that their genes would be passed on to us. We can dilute, mitigate and channel those impulses to a certain extent, but we will never be completely free of them.

Posted by: Dennis at November 8, 2007 7:08 PM

It's called "The Theory Of Structural Powerlessness," the notion that women, once they got money and power, would go for the pool guy or the factory worker; that only lack of money and status kept them from dating down. Wrong. It turns out powerful women want more powerful men. Usually.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 7:10 PM

What? You mean the Material Girl video lied? FUCK. Who wants my beater truck with the push mower in the back?

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 8:06 PM

Fisman's conclusions don't surprise me. Rusty's comment - "Women were attracted to men they viewed as providers, and I don’t mean financial providers" does. What is that aside: “and I don’t mean financial providers” supposed to mean? It sounds like an implication that women who like men that make money, er – finances, are somehow bad.

My husband doesn’t typically spend his days tracking down buffalo or elk or other beasties of the forest to kill, nor does he run around whacking the heads off of chickens to "provide" sustenance for our home. He brings home a paycheck. Sustenance sounds like paycheck - sounds like money - sounds like finances to me. I’m alright with that.

It’s been my experience that being involved with men who make less money than I do, have less education than myself, and who have, yes – less intelligence, are just bad news. The big headline from this bad news has ranged anywhere from nasty, ego bashing remarks to flat-out physical abuse. The male ego can be very tender, indeed.

In tribal societies meat was sustenance. In today’s society, we don’t hunt – we buy. Why men remain surprised and oft times resentful over this fact, and why some women beat themselves up over it, amazes me - and is a little sad considering the ensuing lack of insight (and future happiness) on behalf of both parties.

Posted by: Inquiring at November 8, 2007 8:07 PM

You have no idea how deeply I've modeled my life on that video.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 8:12 PM

FUCK.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 8:14 PM

In tribal societies meat was sustenance. In today’s society, we don’t hunt – we buy. Why men remain surprised and oft times resentful over this fact, and why some women beat themselves up over it, amazes me - and is a little sad considering the ensuing lack of insight (and future happiness) on behalf of both parties.

What often amazes me in my line of work is all the men who write to me irate that women don't want them when they're poor. No, women don't. So earn a living or wank off to whatever free titty shots you can find on the 'net, 'kay?

Likewise, men will not want to fuck you ladies strictly for your beautiful personality.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 8:24 PM

And you are correct rusty: my tastes are strictly canis minor. Blame it on Rio.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 8:24 PM

I think that's my favorite bitterly sneered line from Crumb: "Yeah, all that changed when I got famous."

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at November 8, 2007 8:36 PM

I've just come onto the dating scene (aged 58!) and so far it's been like Goldilocks' porridge: too hot, too cold or just right. #1 was nice but not as smart as me so I couldn't talk at a relaxed level - I had essentially to bite my tongue and talk down a bit. That's not sustainable. #2 seems to be smarter and faster than me. Will she find me boring and talk down to me? Will I be able to keep her amused, interested, satisfied? It'll take a couple more dates to find out, but if so, it's a problem. I haven't met #3 yet but we chat happily on the phone without restraint. (Last night I called and she was stripping - wall paper, that is. Giggles!) We meet on Sunday. I hope she'll be Just Right. I'll let you know.

When I started online dating I bought into "don't judge a book by its cover" and was happy to respond to posters who did not put up a photo. But I've come to the conclusion that the photo is important. Yes, it weeds out people who are seriously unwell - overweight usually - but also those who look depressed (Five photos and no smile?) or haggard, perhaps due to a lifetime of smoking. But most of all, the presence of a photo says something about self confidence. Its absence is an Issue. What the photo does not do is help you to recognise the person at a first meeting! So now, I say "no thanks" to people who post from inside an electronic burka.

"I want a man who will make me happy" is another favourite. Forget it, lady. I can't make you happy. I'm basically happy, and if you are too we can be happy together; but I can't fix whatever stops you from being happy on your own.

This is slightly off topic, but possibly interesting as an older man's perspective - it's different from first time round. More on that if anyone's interested.

Posted by: Norman at November 9, 2007 1:41 AM

"I want a man who will make me happy" is another favourite.

We women get that, too, Norman: "I want a woman who will make me happy (and/make my dinner/clean my house/etc)." What most people don't realize is that if they're not happy, ain't nobody gonna be able to fix that but themselves. It's so simple, yet so many people just cannot grasp the fact that their happiness is their own responsibility, not anyone else's. o_O

Posted by: Flynne at November 9, 2007 5:46 AM

This reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Miranda tries speed dating and none of the guys like her because she is a lwayer. Once she says she is a stewardess, she gets plenty of dates. Then she ends up with a guy who says he is a doctor but turns out to be something else not as well paid. (I forget exactly what.)

Posted by: Amy at November 9, 2007 9:16 AM

What? You mean the Material Girl video lied? FUCK. Who wants my beater truck with the push mower in the back?

Depends, how much do you make with it?

I work out of a '84 light duty pickup. Believe me when I say it isn't pretty (I do bids out of a decent looking car I am co-owner of). It runs like a top, getting incredible gas mileage, in spite of it's rather beaten appearance. I should add that I often come home rather ripe, depending on what I have done that day.

My partner thinks I look rather sexy in my beater truck. She also thinks it's rather sexy when I come home stinking. Why? Because I also bring home a fair amount of money from it all. Though admittedly, she also thinks the bo's rather sexy because she has a thing for a guy who works with his hands. When I was roofing in the heat of summer, I regularly got tackled coming in the door.

So don't fear Paul, there are women out there who think the beater and sweat is really sexy. It just helps to bring home a fat check as well. For women like my partner, strong literacy is a huge plus.

Posted by: DuWayne at November 9, 2007 9:45 AM

Norman -

Number three sounds good to me. I love a women who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. My favorite picture of my partner, is her hauling windows I had pulled and reglazed, out of the house to paint them - with our son strapped to her back. We had a lot of great sex that night, especially since I had come home from a particularly strenuous day...

Posted by: DuWayne at November 9, 2007 9:49 AM

I always go for a man theat at least has a career in mind. I know a man that tell's a woman that asks him what he does for a living that he works at a gas station. He thinks this will rid him of goldiggers. It would rid him of me as well. We generally ask to start the conversation going and gage a persons ambition. A 40 year old working in a gas station probably still lives with the folks. We are not all after your money boys, sometimes we need to know if you are after ours!!

Posted by: Susan at November 9, 2007 10:59 AM

"What often amazes me in my line of work is all the men who write to me irate that women don't want them when they're poor. No, women don't. So earn a living or wank off to whatever free titty shots you can find on the 'net, 'kay? "

Thank you! I've had it up to here with men who are un/underemployed, often still mooching of the parents at age 30+, whining that women should appreciate them for themselves, especially since tend to be the same jokers who have very strict appearance standards.

Tell ya what, we'll stop judging you on your earning potential when you stop judging us by our looks.

Posted by: JoJo at November 10, 2007 2:55 PM

What often amazes me in my line of work is all the men who write to me irate that women don't want them when they're poor.

Depends. I'll take a hardworking schoolteacher over a dilettante with a trust fund any day. Generally, though, I'm betting that the hardworking schoolteachers aren't writing you whining that women don't want them when they're poor, because they end up dating women who are fine with schoolteachers AND because, IMHO, the right woman will appreciate a willingness to *work*.

Posted by: marion at November 10, 2007 5:00 PM

That's not the poor I'm talking about, and I'm with you. For me, a guy has to have ambition and potential and passion for what he does. And you're right about the schoolteachers -- they tend to date women who are fine with schoolteachers. Like me, my girl journalist friends, generally speaking, aren't after guys with money. I mean, it's nice if you're dating somebody who has it -- you go to better restaurants, etc. -- but it's just a perk. I look first for ethics, and character, and of course, are they highly intelligent, fun, and rational? Along with ambition and potential and passion for his work. That said, a guy I'm interested in is going to be accomplished in what he does and will most likely be earning a good living from it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 10, 2007 7:56 PM

Heh. I got exactly what you meant, Amy. Just wanted to bring up that little nuance of the discussion. Because I think that guys who, as you say, have ambition, potential, and passion about what they do are always going to attract women, even if what they do isn't bringing in enormous bucks. Yes, yes, if you have passion about being a rock star and you're still relegated to playing bar mitzvahs at age 35, that's probably going to be a turnoff, but you get my main point. Teachers and pastors get married all the time. It's the guys who have no ambition and passion who are writing in whining to you. If they won the lottery, they might be able to pick up women who solely wanted their money, but I suspect that's not what they want.

Does this seem unfair to men? After all, plenty of women who have little ambition and passion about what they do get married all of the time. The response I'd give to that is that I know a lot of women with little ambition and passion about what they do to earn a living who turn out to be nurturing, whereas I don't know a lot of men with little ambition and passion who do. Women tend to have more highly developed social networks than men do. Even today, I'd argue, men tend to get more of their friendship/nurturing needs met by their wives than women do from their husbands. I'm not saying that women want cold fish, but I think women, on average, have an easier time dealing with husbands who are too busy/intense for a lot of nurturing than men do wives of the same nature.

I hasten to add that yes, I know, some women aren't particularly into the nurturing thing, and some men aren't looking for that. But I do think that, on average, women think that the way that a man approaches his career is a strong indicator about how he will approach an ongoing relationship and deal with the twists and turns of life, whereas a man is less likely to think this about a woman. I doubt that Amy will ever get scads of letters from women complaining them that guys don't want them because they're poor...just as I doubt that she'll ever get scads of letters from men complaining that women don't want them because they've turned 40 and have gray hair.

Posted by: marion at November 10, 2007 10:13 PM

"men tend to get more of their friendship/nurturing needs met by their wives than women do from their husbands"

That's the conclusion I've come to after my dating experiences. I've been quite busy over the last 3 years thanks to the internet. I've met around 230 guys for coffee dates, and had interesting phone conversations with lots more.

I want a guy who will bring something to the relationship, and for me that includes attention and nurturing. It's very difficult to find a guy that has the social skills necessary to provide this, who is also gainfully employed and not living with mom. I'm not high maintenance, I have my own life, so this isn't unreasonable. I also don't want kids, don't want to get married, and support myself financially and live independently. (my thought bubble is more like the guy one)

By the way, most of the guys that I met were interested in having sex with me right away, so apparently men find me attractive. I'm also smart (not physics/5 languages smart, but pretty far down the right side of the bell curve). I think what a lot of guys are turned off by is that I'm not naive, in that I've seen almost every technique guys use to manipulate women to try and keep the upper hand. I don't go for it, and since relationships for men are more about power dynamics than making nice, the way it is for women, they get confused and bail out.

I like guys that are intelligent, but also open-minded and willing to learn, because they usually have to be re-trained to do things the way I like sexually. The older guys are sometimes a bit set in their ways, as are some of the cocky young studs, so it's a challenge to find the perfect combination of smarts and flexibility.

Posted by: Chrissy at November 11, 2007 9:43 AM

What about meeting people to Date on Myspace.I know many people who found the Love of their Life on Myspace. Did Anyone Else here, find someone nice to date on Myspace ?

Posted by: Joseph Palowski at December 15, 2007 7:30 PM

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