Monday, April 12, 2010

Movin and Groovin: Do you want to be a rotator or a sitter?

Some time ago, I blogged on a cool study by Paul Eastwick and Eli Finkel. In this post, I want to highlight another study by these two social psychologists. Here is the journal reference, but you might have trouble finding it if you want to read the whole thing.

Finkel, E. J., & Eastwick, P. W. (2009) Arbitrary social norms influence sex differences in romantic selectivity. Psychological Science, 20, 1290 – 1295.

Finkel and Eastwick have done a number of fascinating studies using speed-dating methods. (If you don’t know what speed-dating is, Google it. It’s not a date where you drive to the end of the block, kiss, and then return your date within 10 minutes.) In the study referenced above, they tested if the mere fact of being the one approaching others impacts how attracted you are to others. In speed-dating, there are rotators and sitters. The sitters sit still while the rotators move every minute or two to the next person they get to meet for a minute or two. Historically, men are almost always chosen to rotate and women are chosen to be the sitters. Men get to move and women get to wait for men to come to them. One more detail. Women are typically more choosey at these events than men (men indicate they would like to follow-up with more women than women do with men).

Finkel and Eastwick tested three really interesting ideas:

1. Are rotators more attracted to the people they meet in a speed-dating event than sitters?

2. Do women become more attracted more men when they are the rotators versus sitters?

3. Is there self-confidence boost from being a rotator?

Yes. Yes. Yes. (No, Harry didn’t meet Sally.) Let’s start with number 1. Part of what Finkel and Eastwick tested is if rotators are more attracted to more people simply because they are the ones on the move. In other words, does moving toward a partner give you some boost in attraction toward that potential partner merely because you are moving toward them rather than vice versa? They found solid evidence that being the one on the move—being the rotator in speed-dating—boosted attraction to others. This is similar to the effect of becoming a bit happier if you smile—after you smile. Feelings can follow behaviors.

Here’s the really smart part. Finkel and Eastwick had women be the rotators in one half of the groups and men in the other half. That way, they could test if it was really rotators who were more attracted because they were rotating and not that men were less choosey than women. Voila! It did matter. When women were rotators, they were attracted to more men than when women were sitters. The differences between men and women disappeared when women were the rotators. Pretty cool. Movin is grooving. (Of course, as Bill Coffin at the Administration for Children and Families Observed, once married, the rotating should stop. Right?)

Lastly, Finkel and Eastwick showed that this effect of being the one moving was related to self-confidence. Being the rotator was associated with more self-confidence which was associated with attraction to more people. I’m going to leave that there until the next post. Think about this and whether you think it’s uniformly better to be one or the other, and why. I’ll throw out some ideas about that next time. I may even tie these effects back to some points about sacrifice, but we’ll see about that.

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