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Science says when it comes to choosing a partner, we’re all clueless

Science says when it comes to choosing a partner, we’re all clueless

Funny, intelligent, driven, we all know what we want in a romantic partner, right? According to scientists, not really. 

Science says when it comes to choosing a partner, we’re all clueless

A new study from the University of California, Davis, titled Negligible Evidence That People Desire Partners Who Uniquely Fit Their Ideals has found that most people’s idea of the ‘perfect partner’ doesn’t ring true in real life.

The study, lead by UC Davis doctoral student Jehan Sparks, sought to find out whether the top three attributes people list in a partner actually mattered to them.

More than 700 participants took part in the research. Each participant was asked to nominate their top three ideals in a partner (characteristics like funny, inquisitive, attractive).

The participants then weighed up their romantic desire for people they knew personally, such as blind dates, romantic partners and friends.

At first, the researchers found a correlation between the desired attributes and the types of partners the participants chose.

“On the surface, this looks promising,” notes Paul Eastwick, co-author of the study.

“You say you want these three attributes, and you like the people who possess those attributes. But the story doesn’t end there.”

Letting strangers pick ideal partners

The researchers added a twist to the experiment. Each participant also reported on their desire for the qualities listed by a random person in the study.

For example, if Kris listed down-to-earth, intelligent and thoughtful as her own top three attributes, Vanessa also experienced more desire for acquaintances who were down-to-earth, intelligent and thoughtful.

The researchers concluded that people desire partners with positive qualities, but that the qualities they think are desirable, aren’t really that important.

“The qualities you specifically list do not actually have special predictive power for you,” said Sparks.

Another way to look at it, says Eastwick, is like ordering food at a restaurant. “Why do we order off the menu for ourselves? Because it seems obvious that I will like what I get to pick,” he says.

“Our findings suggest that, in the romantic domain, you might as well let a random stranger order for you – you’re just as likely to end up liking what you get.”

A new approach to online dating

The researchers say the findings have implications in the world of online dating, where people often choose partners based on specific ideals.

“It’s really easy to spend time hunting around online for someone who seems to match your ideals,” notes Sparks.

“But our research suggests an alternative approach: Don’t be too picky ahead of time about whether a partner matches your ideals on paper. Or, even better, let your friends pick your dates for you.”

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