In the famous words of the Spice Girls: “tell me what you want, what you really, really, want.” Seriously, what exactly do men and women typically want in a partner?
Although there is no straight answer for this question, as it’s pretty complicated, researchers have done studies on dating and what people seem to really want in a partner, so let’s go through a couple of them.
What Exactly Do We Look For In A Partner?
This is a timeless question that has been asked many, many times over, but it’s not quite that simple.
I feel like, at the end of the day, we all want a true, honest life companion that will stick with us no matter what through both good times and bad.
Men And Women Want Different Things
This may not come as a shock to you, but when it comes to finding a partner, men and women really do want different things, which makes sense. Sometimes it feels like we’re different species.
It turns out that behavioral science has some answers to offer based on careful empirical research.
Two Studies, Similar Results
So, part of the answer to this question lies in the results of two different studies.
The first study was conducted by researchers for Columbia University, called Gender Differences in Mate Selection, and they studied dating behavior using data from a Speed Dating experiment.
Nearly 400 single men and women were invited to participate, and each participant went on between 10 and 20 four-minute speed dates with members of the opposite sex.
They then rated the attractiveness, intelligence, and ambition of each person they met on a 1-to-10 scale and also indicated whether they would like that person’s contact information for later.
Some Good News
People aren’t THAT hard to please, which is a good thing! Forty-three percent of the time, these speed daters requested the contact information of the person they had just met.
That means each person liked nearly half of the people that they met, and wanted to see them again. So, let’s get to the good stuff.
Unsurprisingly, the data collected reveals that both men and women really care a lot about attractiveness (although men care slightly more).
However, women care about intelligence roughly TWICE as much as men. Who can blame us? A smart man or woman is SUPER sexy.
How To Measure Attractiveness
We’ve all looked at someone and thought “dang, they’re really attractive.” And there are also people that we are not attracted to, which is okay.
Being attractive is about more than just appearance, but there are certain facial features as well that people find attractive, and that varies from person to person. I certainly know what I like and don’t like.
Every point increase in a man’s intelligence rating (on a 1-to-10 scale) boosted the chances a woman would want to see him again by an average of 4.5 percentage points.
The same increase in a woman’s intelligence increased the probability that a man would want to reconnect by only 2.3 percentage points.
Here’s The Catch
For both men AND women, attractiveness does matter more than intelligence (guess we’re pretty shallow). Each one-point increase in attractiveness boosted the chances that a man would want to see her again by an average of 14 percentage points.
An equivalent increase in a man’s attractiveness raised the chances that a woman would want to reconnect with him by 12 percentage points.
Study 2 – Appearance is Still Pretty Important
Another study included 10,526 participants in a commercial dating service conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania.
They found that the outcomes of these dates were largely determined by physical attributes such as height, weight, age, and overall attractiveness. But, who can blame us? In order for a relationship to succeed, you need to be attracted to one another.
Here’s Something Interesting
The study found that men valued women’s intelligence only until it matched their own.
Turns out, they actually found women whose ambition exceeded theirs to be off-putting (yikes!) Do we still live in a world where women aren’t supposed to be the breadwinner?
This finding aligns with other recent research. For instance, a team of economists at the University of Chicago showed that when women out-earn their husbands, marital satisfaction is lower.
To me, this sounds pretty ridiculous, because I always thought that a super successful person (no matter their gender) was simply 100% sexy.
It’s All About The Money, Money, Money
So, what I’m getting from this is that the average male has slightly politically incorrect preferences. Tell me something I don’t know.
All jokes aside, let’s set the record straight. It was concluded by the study that women prefer men raised in more affluent ZIP codes, while men show no such preference for a moneyed upbringing.
Did you know that women are also typically dramatically more interested in partners of their own race, while men show no such in-group preference?
As a woman myself, I can safely say that race doesn’t really matter to me, but on the other hand, I know a couple of ladies who would definitely agree with this.
Number Of Potential Partners
Researchers also discovered that a man’s standards typically remain unchanged whether they meet 10 or 20 potential partners.
Women, on the other hand, become pickier the more partners are “on the market.” Ladies, the better and more varied the options, the more choosy we are, which I don’t really think is a bad thing.
Let’s Summarize It
So, if you’re like me and tend to get confused when a lot of information is thrown at you, it may help to summarize a few of the key points that the researchers discovered.
There’s a lot of data on the table, but it can be broken down in very simple terms.
Listen Up, Ladies
Women, please don’t take this as a hint to hide your ambition! Strong and powerful women are what makes the world go-’round, baby.
The studies just simply show that you may find more lasting love if you look for an equally ambitious partner, as opposed to having too much of a difference.
Attractiveness matters more to men than it does to women when dating, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t matter to women.
But attractiveness isn’t just clear-cut. Every person has personal preferences on who & what they are attracted to.
Can’t Forget About The Men
Men, if you’re looking for more of an uptown girl, you may encounter some snobbery, as women tend to care more about where a person lives.
But don’t worry, because as long as there aren’t too many fish in the sea, your lady is more likely to pick you, so you’ve got a chance (and if you’re intelligent – you’ve got even more of a chance).
What Do You Think?
So, what do you think about the results of these studies? Do you agree, or disagree with their findings on what men and women REALLY look for in a partner?
In the end, we like to think that the perfect person will one day appear for us. It’s important to know what you want.