Self-Enhancement and Ratings of Mate Desirability

Student Author(s)

Erica Iceberg

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Carrie Bredow

Document Type


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Past research has shown that people often view themselves more positively than is warranted in order to protect their feelings of self-worth. Past work also has shown that individuals are particularly likely to self-enhance on traits that are personally important and traits that are global, rather than specific, in nature. The goal of our research is to extend previous research by examining correlates and potential consequences of people’s tendency to self-enhance their own desirability as a spouse. 502 unmarried adults were recruited from college night courses, community organizations, and social media sites. Participants completed an online questionnaire assessing their personal qualities, general desirability as a partner, psychological and behavioral investment in marrying, and dating and relationship success. Each participant also nominated 2-3 peers to provide “outside” ratings of their mate value. Self-enhancement was calculated by comparing people’s self-ratings of attribute-specific and global mate value to the average of their peers’ ratings. As predicted, the tendency to self-enhance on global mate value was significantly higher for romantically involved individuals (t(499)=-2.468, p<.05) and those who definitively wanted to marry someday (t(484)= 3.15, p<.01). Greater self-enhancement on global mate value was also associated with greater psychological investment in marrying (β=.12, p<.01), greater behavioral investment in marrying (β=.25, p<.001), and higher expectations to marry (β=.29, p<.001). For attribute-specific mate value, self-enhancement was only associated with behavioral investment in marrying (β=.20, p<.01) and expectations to marry (β=.19, p<.01). Although discrepancies between self-reported and peer-reported mate value were not associated with participants’ success establishing relationships, people with less accurate global self-perceptions reported lower relationship satisfaction (β=-.17, p<.05) and a lower likelihood of marrying their current partner (β=-.16, p<.05). Taken together, we found that placing greater value on getting married is associated with greater selfenhancement on mate value and inaccurate self-perceptions are associated with poorer relationship quality.

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