Too Many Relational Choices Can Bring Pitfall of Needle in a Haystack
Have you ever opened a deli menu and been overwhelmed with all of the choices?
It’s almost easier to order when there are less options. Some online daters feel the same way, especially when they join sites that offer literally thousands of choices.
Because many on the dating scene employ several sites at the same time, they're naturally bombarded with options.
Within this type of environment, finding "the one" can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Once a "match" is made, do daters drop off the site, or simply continue to scroll for options?
Research has some answers.
Online Dating: Too Many Choices?
When scrolling through online dating options, there can be too much of a good thing.
Jordan R. Sculley et al. (in 2021) tested the impact of having a wide variety of online dating options on perceived attractiveness of familiar as compared to novel faces.
They sought to explore whether the extent of choices available through online dating sites could create an "assessment mindset," predisposing people to consider alternative partners and reduce the motivation to commit to just one partner.
Sculley et al. (ibid.) showed participants slideshows of either dates or equally attractive desserts, and measured the effect on attraction when faces were viewed a second time, and also measured response to novel versus familiar faces.
Among other findings, they discovered that single women, relative to single men, were less attracted to familiar faces following slideshow manipulation. When comparing equally attractive faces, both men and women were more attracted to novel faces, with this effect twice as strong in men as compared to women.
Also, in contrast to women, men rated the post-slideshow face images as more attractive after they had browsed through dating versus dessert slideshows, which the authors explain indicates that a dating context prompts male attraction to faces in a more general sense.
Yes: Matching Matters
Apparently, reciprocation matters as well as novelty. Sculley et al. (supra) discovered that single women (as compared with single men) were less attracted to the same face when they saw it a second time, but only when they imagined not forming a "match" with any dates in the slideshow.
Sculley et al. (supra) also found that following slideshows, novel faces were found to be more attractive than familiar faces, more to men than women, and this preference for novelty was stronger in both genders after they imagined "matching" with desired romantic dates.
Sculley et al. (supra) explain that apparently, visual familiarity does not necessarily "breed liking" when people have the autonomy to choose.
A larger selection of online potential paramours can undermine commitment at different points such as when browsing profiles, or when deciding whether to have a second date, because users may become oriented toward an "optimal" romantic partner given the myriad of potentially available alternatives.
Perhaps it's not surprising that many people meet online, but fall in love in person, during a healthy period of relationship building where they get to know, love, and respect the person behind the persona.
An "Abundance of Riches" Doesn't Guarantee a "Pay Off"
Perhaps more is not always better when it comes to viewing potential partner profiles.
Filtering results might be a smart selection strategy in order to increase the chances of finding an appropriate pairing. Online dating might present an abundance of riches in terms of prospects, but finding the right romantic match is priceless.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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