What we really want in a Partner

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What we really want in a Partner? Attribute preferences are fundamental to the way people think about and experience the world. Someone may profess their love of spiciness in food or their appreciation of intelligence in a romantic partner; another may be drawn to an area of ​​the country where the residents are more liberal or more conservative. The shine of an apartment could boost interest in signing a rental agreement. It is not surprising that these preferences for attributes, that is, for qualities, have been studied in numerous publications.

But where do these ideas come from? And, more importantly, do they reflect our actual experiences? According to research from the University of Toronto, what people think they like in a romantic partner and what they really like can often be two different things.

Experience is only part of the story. Research suggests that the qualities we think we like also depend on the social context in which we encounter them.

For example, if you go to a big party and the people you meet there happen to be fun, you may think you prefer fun people. But in reality, it may not be the humor that you like, but the context (in this case the party) and there is simply humor in it.

The researchers found that what people think they like and what they actually like are closely related. In fact, people’s ideas about taste and their taste experiences may end up predicting different decisions and actions.

To verify this effect, they studied more than 1,300 participants in four different instances. In the first three cases, participants’ ideas about how much they liked a trait in a potential romantic partner barely correlated with how much they ended up liking that trait.

Minor changes in the environment can also play a role. In the latest study, the researchers asked participants to rate how much they liked qualities like confidence. They then rated a number of online dating profiles and indicated how willing they were to sign up for them based on the profiles they viewed.

The results showed that what the participants thought they liked and what they really liked predicted different types of decisions. For example, their ideas about how much they liked self-confidence did not predict their interest in signing up for a free trial of a dating website with photos of self-confident people. What predicted their willingness to jump into the dating pool was the degree to which they liked confidence after experiencing it.

Ultimately, the team says, people’s ideas about what they like, while helpful in many situations, are no substitute for actual experiences. Understanding the distinction between what we think we like and what actually leads us to like something can be useful in a variety of different situations. For example, it could help people predict where to live, what to buy, and what they prefer in a romantic partner.

They also add that people may unnecessarily rule out potential mates based on certain traits they think they like, but have never experienced in person.

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