Study Suggests Women and Men Have More in Common When It Comes To Choosing a Partner

It turns out that men and women may have a lot more in common than we thought – even when it comes to picking someone to settle down with. In fact, reports on recent findings from Northwestern University, where they conducted research through a series of speed dating events.

“When women were assigned to the traditionally male role of approaching potential romantic partners, they were not any pickier than men in choosing that special someone to date, according to the speed dating study. That finding, of course, is contrary to well established evolutionary explanations about mate selection. An abundance of such research suggests that women are influenced by higher reproductive costs (bearing and raising children) than men and thus are much choosier when it comes to love interests.”

“Deviating from standard speed-dating experiments – and from the typical conventions at professional speed-dating events – women in the study were required to go from man to man during their four-minute speed dates half the time, rather than always staying put. In most speed-dating events, the women stay in one place as the men circulate.”

“Regardless of gender, those who rotated experienced greater romantic desire for their partners, compared to those who sat throughout the event. The rotators, compared to the sitters, tended to have a greater interest in seeing their speed-dating partners again.”

There are so many questions that come up. Do you think that speed dating offers scientific opportunities for studying romantic attraction in action? Do you think that in an ever-changing society, women’s and men’s roles in the pursuit of romance are becoming more alike? Please share your thoughts and questions with the rest of us.


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  1. 1

    Do you think that speed dating offers scientific opportunities for studying romantic attraction in action?


    Alternative and just as bad/good theories could be used to explain the results in the quote. Maybe women are more liberal in their choices when they are not looking for a father or an LTR. Maybe sitters, of either sex, have more interest in staying in touch because of psychological reflex to make them grab at something fleeting. On and on.

    Do you think that in an ever-changing society, women’s and men’s roles in the pursuit of romance are becoming more alike?

    I think it opens doors to negative and positive changes, but I don’t think it will ever make the roles in dating the same. I think there is a lot more flexibility in the sex roles than most people do, but I think certain aspects of it are hard wired into our biology.

  2. 3

    I think being the pursuer, rather than the pursuee, is probably what made the difference. It seems like they would be taking a more active role in finding a mate by rotating between matches, thus having them be more involved in the process.

    To answer your questions about speed dating offering scientific opportunities, I would say, yes, but it’s only a subset, you can’t make general statements from that.

    To answer your other question about gender roles, I would say that there are still some ingrained instincts that men and women have that play a part, and if you go against those instincts, it might cause conflict and problems.

    Just my $0.02

  3. 4
    Mikko Kemppe

    I agree with Steve and Mr_right. Although the pursuit of romance between sexes may have become more alike in our modern world, I don’t think it will ever make the roles in dating the same, as I also believe that our hard wiring is simply still too different. Although who knows what we’ll be like in another million years if us humans are still around.

    But surely speed dating offers some scientific opportunities for studying romantic attraction in action.

    This is what Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study said: “The mere act of physically approaching a potential partner, versus being approached, seemed to increase desire for that partner” confirming Mr_Right’s hunch.

    I think just because the desire increased for their partner in women when they were the pursuers it does not necessarily give evidence that this desire will translate into long term passion and lasting attraction. I think to achieve that it is still healthy to be aware of our more traditional roles. I.e., for men to be the pursuer and women to be the pursuee.

    Mikko Kemppe´s last blog post…Do Men Just Want Sex? Should My Decision Be To Wait Or Not To Wait?

  4. 5

    I don’t think you can get away from how we are wired…men are the hunter/gatherers, and women are caretakers. men are the initiators, the pursuers. It is why our shoulders are wider (to drag heavy weapons on the hunt, and then drag the kill back to the village) and all kinds of things simular to that. You can try to change the traditional male/female gender roles all you want, but there will always be a male role and a female role to play in relationships, in not only in the enticing of romance part, but in household chores, raising of the children, and all those other things couples do. Now, men might play the womens role and vise versa, but there will still always be roles that each of us have. I wonder if in the speed dating experiment, women just got kinda excited because for once they get to have a little more control of the pursuing, which society tells them they ought to have the right to do. Just another example of how womens lib has messed things up!

  5. 7

    @ Casual

    I never understood Paul. And I still don’t..

    “…household chores…”

    “…how women’s lib messed things up…”


  6. 8

    @ Paul, well you can’t take back women’s lib! And what will happen as the “new woman” becomes more entrenched is that you will have a bunch of women who don’t care whether they end up with someone or not, and a bunch of guys who DO want something long-term but aren’t willing to compromise to get it. In that scenario, the guys are the ones who end up alone and miserable and the gals end up alone but not really feeling bad because of it.

    In the end, since women can have children, they are able to dictate the terms under which any man is able to participate (or not) in a family unit. So it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few decades.

    FWIW, my gender roles with the BF are fairly traditional (at least right now) although we don’t want children so really things will probably change back and forth throughout our lives.

    Honey´s last blog post…Get Fit and Improve Your Dating Prospects

  7. 9
    Curly Girl

    Thanks for your cogent words, Honey!

    Yes, you do notice that it is always men who are promoting this hardwiring theory and never the women. And they are forever talking about that hunter-gatherer stuff, even though it is clear that they don’t have the first understanding of what hunter-gathering societies are about! (I won’t go into it here, but please, I beg you—read up on it.) And–news flash–we don’t live in a hunter-gatherer society!!! DNA changes in response to environment! That is what Darwin showed with those experiments with the peas! Even if your hardwiring idea as the basis for human dating behavior had some merit (which is questionable in and of itself as dating didn’t exist until just recently), why would the hardwiring for one brief time in human history (the hunter-gatherer period) be that which determines all that comes after for millenia? And what about all the DNA encoding that came before the hunter-gatherer period? Was that all wiped out by the sight of a water buffalo and a breadfruit tree?

    Does anybody THINK anymore??!!!!

  8. 10

    Honey Jun 21st 2009 at 03:42 pm 8
    @ Paul, well you can’t take back women’s lib!

    Not true. In the 1950s Iraq was actually far ahead of the culture in the U.S. as far as feminism goes. Now it is a nightmare befitting Handmaid’s tale.

    In the end, since women can have children, they are able to dictate the terms under which any man is able to participate (or not) in a family unit.

    Maybe or maybe not. EMK has not shortage of complaints from women about men staying away from them for various reasons. Including not shifting out of their business roles and competing with them. Then there are the common complaints from women about men not responding to them when they are approached in a certain way.

  9. 11

    @ Curly Girl, thanks! I’ve done extensive reading on hunter-gatherer societies (I work for a bunch of anthropologists) and it wasn’t much like it is typically portrayed, including how it has been portrayed here.

    @ Steve re: Iran, a backlash against women’s rights isn’t the same thing as negating its occurrence. Though I appreciate the reference to Margaret Atwood!

    re: women who complain, well, those women are still the ultimate decision-makers as to whether there will be a family…they just choose to compromise a little more because a) they aren’t aware of their own power, and b) they have a traditional (albeit recent traditional) definition of “family” that they don’t want to deviate from (I’m leaving out women whose socioeconomic circumstances force them to compromise for the sake of existence, though I think that will eventually change, too).

    I just happen to think that the more time goes by, the less women are going to be willing to be the ones who compromise on those issues – and the more men are going to have to, otherwise they won’t be able to participate at all. The conservatives have one thing right – the nuclear family IS on its way out, at least as it has been envisioned in recent centuries.

    I’m not campaigning one way or the other, just offering my observation about how society’s going to have to change in the next 50-100 years.

    Honey´s last blog post…Good News Follows Good News: Or, LinkedIn Works!?

  10. 13


    Oh Cilla, LOL! I almost spit my tea all over my keyboard!

  11. 14

    re: women who complain, well, those women are still the ultimate decision-makers as to whether there will be a family

    Not unless they want to do it alone with the aide of artificial insemination. There are some rugged individualists who have gone and who will go for that. It doubt that would be an appealing idea to most women. The ones who are being more different than most average men can handle are still writing into people like EMK trying to learn to how to adapt to get and keep a man.

    I think your point about generation Y, having more “slackers”, grown men willing to be supported, will reshape gender roles. I don’t know how far as I also hear my early 20 something friends also complaining about such men.

  12. 15
    Curly Girl

    I agree with Honey! I agree with Cilla! I agree with Selena!

    And mention of The Handmaid’s Tale makes me sad that Natasha Richardson, who starred in the movie, is gone.

    Which brings me to my next free associative thought: Anyone who thinks that women aren’t “hardwired” in a certain way is pretending that Liam Neeson does not exist.

  13. 17
    Curly Girl

    Steve@14: Aaanndd here’s some Census data for you: Almost 1/3 of all children in the U.S. live in single-parent homes, the overwhelming majority of which are headed up by mothers (something like 87% of single-parent households). So, millions of women already are having or are raising children without men. I’m not sure that this statistic indicates the rise of a few “rugged individualists.”

    One of the reason that the divorce laws are so draconian re: alimony and child support is that the state did not want to bear the financial responsibility for abandoned women and children. Abandoned/widowed women and children is also why welfare was created. So even in our laws and our social programs we see reflected the understanding that women raising children alone has always been a reality.

    And yes, this has a psychological effect on us and on how we see men and relationship and on dating–I hold that this is much more in operation than our “wiring.”

    The myth of the little nuclear family is just that– a myth. Look at your own family histories, if they are known. Everyone was in a tight little unit with a Dad at the helm?

  14. 19

    I think its better that men are pursuers and women pursuee. Because i really don’t feel it makes us less liberated in any other sense. And how we date should really not be linked to any other aspects of women’s liberation.

    Because i have seen what happens when a girl is the pursuer. It gets frustrating and irritating. When you do that men generally show a lot of attitude when they are being purused. It just does not work. Actually not only in dating but even friends of the same sex. If you are the one who is always calling the friend you will find yourself getting frustrated by how less they care about you.

    I feel that to some degree its ok for women to pursue but only to some degree.

  15. 20

    Its good to show the man you love him or like him. But thats it. If you start pursuing him you get frustrated because men wont do much if they feel you already love them. They dont feel the need to call and ask you to meet ever if you are the one doing that.

  16. 21

    Shalini Jun 22nd 2009 at 04:39 am 19
    Because i have seen what happens when a girl is the pursuer. It gets frustrating and irritating. When you do that men generally show a lot of attitude when they are being pursued.

    Welcome to our world :-)

  17. 22

    I would guess that there is a more active investment in the other person for whomever is doing the pursuing. Doing the pursuing puts you in the position of being the rejected one, so there may be more of an investment in not being rejected, if nothing else.

    The problem I have with speed dating, after having done it once, is that the few minutes of time you have to spend with anyone is just enough time to figure out if there is any chemistry or not. But that’s about it. You know if you think they’re attractive, maybe smart enough, have a few interests in common, but not much else. It’s hard to be all that picky with so little information.

  18. 23

    Women are acting more like men, including pursuing the opposite sex based on looks. There is plenty of research to confirm that, although the study behind the blog entry is an interesting addition. How specifics of appearance and personality influence the hunt is where researchers ought to focus, along with the desperation factor, e.g., do women chase men when fewer men in the suitable category (age, etc.) are available?

  19. 24

    Hi Steve,

    i totally sympathize with men. But i have always been in “your world”. And seen that it never works that way.. If i pursue someone i might make more efforts.. but the person i feel more “love” for is always the one who pursued me.. (if he has other qualities that i want).

    I am happy being pursued!!!

  20. 25

    This is because i resent always having to do everything in such relationships.. and in fact when i dont make an effort in such relationships its almost always the end.. Because i guess thats the way men are wired they feel more attraction for someone they have to pursue..

  21. 26

    I don’t think speed dating mirrors real life, whatsoever. So there’s no scientific basis in it, at all.

    I attended a speed dating event here in Silicon Valley. Got there a little early. Every guy there looked like a handsome, fit, educated professional. Every woman looked a little frumpy and dumpy, like she needed some help finding a date. Huge disappointment. Of course, in SV, the guys often need help finding dates since there are way more single men than single women here. That was my first and last speed dating event.

    dadshouse´s last blog post…Father and Teenage Daughter Go For a Run

  22. 27

    No matter how you swallow it…. I’m more comfortable when the man is calling me first, texting me first… asking me out first….

    I may TAKE the role of pursuer… but I never enjoy it. It doesen’t make me feel good. I’d much rather reciprocate than initiate.

  23. 28

    I contacted the BF first, and also “coerced” him into asking me on a date (we met on MySpace and I refused to add him as a friend until we’d met in person, which worked great).

    Thereafter, the interest was so mutual that I don’t really think there was much “pursuing” on either side as much as trying it out to see if it was going anywhere. We agreed to be exclusive on our second date (which was a day after our first date!) so there was never any question about our status.

    Honey´s last blog post…Good News Follows Good News: Or, LinkedIn Works!?

  24. 29


    “do women chase men when fewer men in the suitable category (age, etc.) are available?”

    yes i guess it’s true. if i find some one i find suitable i might initially try to pursue him but, i can say this about myself i wont do it long (coz really i m through with it). I really dont do it if i know he does not thing about me romantically.

  25. 30

    Um, Mendel was the guy with the pea experiments, in the mid-19th century. And since DNA had not been discovered til the mid-20th century, it’s hard to say whether he proved DNA changes in response to environment.

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