Caring & Understanding Responses: Your First Date Kryptonite

Do nice guys really finish last? We wouldn’t go that far, but they certainly aren’t winning any first dates.

A study published in Personality and Social Psychology has found that, while men like women to be emotionally responsive in the opening stages of a relationship, women don’t want the same from men. In fact, women don’t equate responsiveness with either attractiveness or masculinity.

Researchers paired 112 subjects (fifty-six men and fifty-six women) together for five- to seven-minute discussions. Half took the role of ‘discloser’, and the other half took the role of ‘responder’. Disclosers had to talk about a recent personal negative event, which responders were instructed to talk “about as much or as little as they would under normal circumstances”. Afterward, disclosers filled out a questionnaire that assessed “how understood, validated, and cared for” they felt during the interaction, and how attractive they found their partner.

Male subjects who found their partners to be more responsive also rated her as more feminine and more sexually attractive. However, female subjects didn’t find responsive male partners particularly attractive or particularly masculine.

What’s happening? Researchers suggest that, during early encounters, “. . . potential partners often tend to rely heavily on conventional cultural scripts of how women and men should behave toward one another.” In other words, men are looking for responsiveness, while women think of emotionally responsive men as insincere.

Of course, the main caveat to keep in mind is that this research relates mainly to first impressions. We suspect that if you aren’t issuing some kind of emotional response by the third date, you’re probably done.

Photo courtesy of Guian Bolisay

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