So you’re flocking to online dating sites with a wish list of ideal traits that you desire in a mate. Not so fast!     Once you actually meet a potential dating partner, those ideals are likely to fall by the wayside, according to new research from Northwestern University and Texas A&M University and reported by the NU NewsCenter.

People liked potential partners that matched their ideals more than those that mismatched their ideals when they examined written descriptions of potential partners, but those same ideals didn’t matter once they actually met in person, according to a new study by psychologists Paul W. Eastwick, Eli J. Finkel and Alice H. Eagly.

“People have ideas about the abstract qualities they’re looking for in a romantic partner,” said Eastwick, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University and lead author of the study. “But once you actually meet somebody face to face, those ideal preferences for traits tend to be quite flexible.”   Say you prefer a partner who, online or on paper, fits the bill of being persistent. “After meeting in person, you might feel that, yeah, that person is persistent, but he can’t compromise on anything. It’s not the determined and diligent kind of persistent that you initially had in mind,” Eastwick said.

The idea is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, said Finkel, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University and co-author of the study. “People are not simply the average of their traits,” he said. “Knowing that somebody is persistent, ambitious and sexy does not tell you what that person is actually like. It doesn’t make sense for us to search for partners that way.”

“Thinking about this or that feature of a person apart from taking the whole person into account doesn't predict actual attraction,” Eagly said. “While some online dating sites have video features that provide some context, generally people are matched on their answers to specific questions that do not capture the whole person.”

Scores from answers to questions such as “How much money do you earn?” or “Are you extroverted?” provide two-dimensional facts rather than three-dimensional humanness, Finkel said.

For those seeking prospective partners, don't be surprised if you end up ignoring your preconceived notions about what would make an ideal mate.

“Based on those ideals, you might end up liking a person upon meeting face to face, or you might have the opposite reaction,” Finkel said. As Eastwick notes, it is not uncommon for someone to say, ‘If you had tried to set me up with this guy, I would never have gone out with him, but I’m so glad I did!’”

The study, “When and Why Do Ideal Partner Preferences Affect the Process of Initiating and Maintaining Romantic Relationships?” will appear in the November edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Source:  Hilary Hurd Anyaso,  law and social sciences editor, NU NewsCenter.



Hi Sharon .Very nice post .I could not agree more with the fact that we are more than the sum of our parts.Some of our most endearing traits can only be experienced face to face. But we must begin somewhere.You do not date someone because "we have nothing in common."Thus the online dating profile,however flawed!

There's a truth to this. However, I think that we focus so much on what traits the person we are looking for have. Rather than focusing on what he or she values in life... It's always important to get to know the person whether you meet them online or in person.

People often don't really understand what attracts them to other people. That is why they are frequently attracted to people who don't meet what they describe as their ideal mate. As one of the dating masters said "attraction is not a choice".

That is a wonderful post Sharon. Most people tend to go online to find the perfect partner. However, this can be a game of chance as there are many people who lie on their online dating profiles. I think it's crucial to meet that online person face to face and take it from there

I cannot speak for myself, but I will represent my friend. She initially looks for age, mostly to get an idea of what their life may be like, busy, retired, traveler, etc. Then she looks for the area lived in, is it a nice neighborhood? She wants a man that is adventurous, so she reads the Bio's to look for risk takers in the sense of adventure, skydiving, spelunking. It's a great way to narrow your parameters, saving your time and his time, to meet that special someone.

Thanks for the nice post Sharon. Yes, the online dating world has really exploded over the years, but you are right- it is a whole new ball game once you finally meet in person and spend time together.

I believe it's important to always get to know someone you met online. It has been different when i actually met someone in person, mostly due to the fact that i was extremely nervous.

Are dating sites contributing to the fact that nearly 50% of marriages end up in a divorce? Or will dating sites reverse the trend? From a gran happily married for 46 years to date.

Wow, it's so difficult and so hard find a man as you desire. It's almost impossible to imagine the perfect man and than meet him, and maybe marry him. No, I think that we have too much "ideal preferences" to live in this reality, we should want a gentle, honest, working man that respect us every day. Perfect article! I loved it!

Great Post. There are a lot of online dating sites today and individuals who are searching for a partner engaged there time and efforts to know a person through online. But still great if you meet him/her in person so that you won't regret anything. :))

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