Monday, August 29, 2005

Bad Sample

Evolutionary psychology often appears to be something less than science. Although it is fun to come up with ideas about how evolutionary forces have shaped human behavior, it seems more useful to find out how people act and think today, rather than guess at what evolutionary forces explain our behavior.

An LATimes article concludes,
. . . said Li, men and women tend to strive for the best partner their own attributes can buy. "Falling in love," he said, "is basically a process where both sides feel they're getting a good deal."

This conclusion seems to be drawn from his study where "researchers gave men and women varied "mating budgets" and, in a series of tests, asked them to construct their ideal mate, using such qualities as looks, social status, creativity, and kindness."
This self-reported preferrence is a very bad substitute for studing when people fall in love. It would be hard to conclude relationships are not a transaction when you set up studies in this manner.

Another study mentioned surveyed people about to go speed dating where participants are given three minutes to make their judgments.

Their fundamental questions: Did participants select the people most like themselves? Or did most of them prize similar traits — such as appearance or high income — and try to get the best deal they could in the mating market?

What the researchers discovered was that men and women chose their dates on the basis of "generally agreed upon mate values," the mating market hypothesis. Another finding: Both sexes relied mainly on physical attractiveness, largely disregarding factors such as income and social status.

could there be selectin bais in the group? The speed daters are probably older people who have failed at many other relationships. Maybe the study just shows people who focus primarily on looks are bad long term partners.
The study is probably an accurage description of most people, but it does not say much about meeting people for longer than three minutes. Many of the people I care about today, I didn't think much of during the first three minutes.

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