One common filler in the news these days is the study story. These are the stories about various studies, often in psychology, that purport to tell us things on the basis of rather limited samples and often with somewhat amazing inferential leaps. One recent filler piece I came across is one that purports to show that women are more attracted to men whose feelings are not clear.
This study was originally published in Psychological Science, where one may find a plethora of similar studies.
Obviously, academic types have to keep the gears of the research machine going. Status, funding, promotion and tenure all depend on this.
The study mentioned above was conducted by Dr. Erin R. Whitchurch and Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virgina and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University. In the study, 47 female UVA undergrads were told that male students from other schools had looked at their profiles and that each woman would be rated. Each woman was given “fake” profiles of four men. For the study, the women were divided into four groups. Group one of the woman were told that the four men gave them high ratings, group two was told that the men ranked them as average and the third group of women were not told which rated them high or average.
The women were most attracted to the men whose ratings they did not know. In second place were the men who rated them as attractive and last were the men who rated them as average.
While this study is somewhat interesting, the media coverage certainly outstrips the foundation that it provides.
First, the sample is extremely small and this makes inferences to the general population of women questionable at best. Second, the sample consists of undergraduates at a specific university. This raises the obvious question of whether the sample is adequately representative of women in general. After all, the age of the woman, their education, and so on could be factors that affected the outcome of the study.
Another concern is that some folks presented the study as if it provided findings relevant to dating and relationships. While using the fictional Facebook scenario might tell us something about psychology, making inferences about what would occur in dating or in relationships from such a scenario would be quite a leap.
However, the study did make good press and spread widely on the web. Perhaps someone should do a psychology study on that.
I’ve posted links to articles about the study below.
- The Key To Getting Your Date To Like You Revealed (psychworld.com)
- Why playing hard to get is the key to a woman’s heart: Men who keep their feelings under wraps are ‘more attractive’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Wray Herbert: Online Dating: The Power of Romantic Uncertainty in a Facebook World (huffingtonpost.com)
- Playing hard to get: Men who keep feelings under wraps are ‘more attractive’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Men should play hard to get, find psychologists (telegraph.co.uk)
- Uncertainty and Romantic Attraction (psychologytoday.com)
- Why Women Go for Guys Who Play Hard to Get (healthland.time.com)
- Women Are More Attracted to Men Whose Feelings Are Unclear, Study Finds (aolhealth.com)