Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Carrie Bredow

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To date, most research on mate selection has focused on identifying what people say they want in a partner, with the assumption that these criteria guide people’s partnering decisions and behaviors. Recent research, however, suggests that this may not always be the case. Despite evidence that greater correspondence between a priori mate standards and partner characteristics is linked to greater relationship quality, other work has found little to no correlation between the traits people report valuing most in a mate and the types of partners they actually select. One explanation for this lack of correspondence between reported standards and partnering behaviors is that some attitudes that influence people’s relational decision-making may not be consciously accessible. However, only one study has examined mate preferences in an indirect (implicit) manner, and this investigation focused only on whether implicit preferences for physical attractiveness predicted evaluations of potential partners in initial encounters. Our research seeks to address these limitations by assessing implicit preferences for three major trait dimensions and examining whether such measures can meaningfully predict evaluations of existing romantic relationships. Approximately 200 unmarried individuals recruited from classes at Hope College engaged in two implicit procedures (SC-IAT and IAT) designed to capture the strength of their spontaneous reactions to different traits in a partner. Participants also completed a self-report survey assessing their explicit standards for a long-term partner, their own characteristics, and their evaluations of their romantic relationships (if partnered). Preliminary results indicate that although all three attribute dimensions elicited generally positive affective reactions, males revealed stronger implicit preferences for physical attractiveness/vitality than did females and were more likely than females to implicitly value attractiveness/vitality over warmth/dependability. Initial tests of the connections between implicit preferences and (a) explicit mate standards, (b) selfreported traits, and (c) relationship evaluations were inconsistent and await further analysis.