According to Samantha Joel and her colleagues, the human mind has strong and automatic prosocial tendencies—we don’t like inflicting social pain—and this deep-rooted kindness keeps men and women from rejecting partners—even incompatible partners.What’s more, we are unaware of our generosity’s power.All were asked if they wanted to exchange contact information with this person.
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But that noble gesture is usually a one-time act of pity, and besides, we know the unattractive loser is really brilliant and funny and so forth.
But what if physical attractiveness is not a factor?
Here’s how: They recruited young men and women who were single but interested in dating, and showed each of them three dating profiles.
These profiles were ostensibly of other people in the study.
The scientists were trying to distinguish here between how people see themselves choosing a partner, hypothetically, and how they actually choose in real time.
They predicted that the young men and women would be much less picky—less rejecting—when they thought a real person’s feelings were on the line. Only one in six opted to date the unattractive person when it was a hypothetical decision. By contrast, more than a third said yes to a date when they thought the unattractive person was in the next room. They found that people were motivated by both self-interest and generosity of spirit.
That is, we choose romantic partners who are rich or beautiful or fertile or otherwise valuable, but these qualities may not always make for a deep and enduring relationship.
This reasoning also assumes that we simply reject any potential partner who doesn’t match our ideals. A team of researchers at the University of Toronto is offering a radical new idea about why we make so many poor relationship choices: We’re too nice.
Each participant chose the potential date he or she preferred—much as you would on a dating site.