Friday, December 20, 2013

D&D for Mating Games, Bi-Strategic Decision Triggers, Interdependence: The Questions

In keeping with the recent theme of Millennials, here are a couple of questions that I posed to both my male and female students over the last term.  I will discuss the results in the next post, but I thought it would be fun to give the scenarios first in case any of my friends here wanted to play around with them.


The first was part of an in-class exercise that we went through as part of the "Mating Intelligence"---applied evolutionary psychology meets Lord Byron, basically---module in my SSD class.  The Person A and Person B descriptions are not mine; they were used as part of a much larger and more significant study exercise by two very esteemed evolutionary psychologists (n=25 in my own sample):

Read the following vignettes and then respond to my fun questions.

"Description/Person A:  Person A is considered physically attractive and 'sexy.'  He/she has a sort of charisma that attracts the attention of those around him/her.  Although some might consider him/her arrogant, A possesses a kind of self-confidence that others admire.  A is not known, however, for living a responsible lifestyle.  In the past, he/she has had a series of relatively short-term relationships.  Some have ended because of questionable faithfulness on the part of A."


"Description/Person B:  Person B is an average-looking person, someone most people wouldn't consider 'sexy.'  He/she is sufficiently socially skilled but does not possess the kind of magnetic personality that draws the attention of others.  Rather, B has a stable and responsible personality.  In a relationship, B is caring, dependable, and faithful.  He/she would like very much to have a family, likes children, and would probably be good with them."


Ok, so there are the two descriptions.  Before anyone accuses me of having biased the responses by including pics, keep in mind that I did not include these photos in the original exercise (nor are the photos necessarily fair:  Cristiano Ronaldo is a legendary swordsman, for example, but also appears to be a devoted dad).  I'm also not trying to demean any of the celebrities that I chose as exemplars; these are purely for context-specific illustrative purposes.  There were no visual examples of Person A or Person B given in the original exercise, although it may be useful sometimes to have them available if participants wish to ask questions about what you mean when you employ terms like "sexy and hot" and "average looking". 

Here were my questions based on the vignettes:

"Question 1:  Which of these descriptions best represents the sort of person you would ideally prefer (now) to be in a relationship with?  What about a hypothetical future relationship?  Why?"

"Question 2:  Do you feel that one must generally make a stark trade-off between trait clusters like those described by A and B?  Why or why not?"

"Question 3:  Does our cultural environment tend to reward one of these people over the other?  If so, what do you think is going on?  Do you think this reward system is growing even more biased, or moderating?"

"Question 4:  If you suddenly inherited significant wealth and had a personal bodyguard detail to protect you from harm, would this affect your decision between Person A and Person B?  Explain."

"Question 5:  Which person, A or B, do you feel that members of the OPPOSITE sex would tend to choose.  Why?  How does this affect your presentation in the mating market?"

"Question 6:  Do you feel that you could be happy, over the very long-term, in a relationship with tradeoffs characterized by Person A or Person B?  Is there any way that you can think of to mitigate any pain that might be associated with these trade-offs?"

"Question 7:  Name some specific physical characteristics that you feel would be good 'mate selection' signals if you were at a party, hookah joint, or wine bar and forced to choose a mate from the pool of attendees with only visual data to go on."

"Question 8:  Name some behavioral characteristics or verbal traits that you feel would be good 'mate selection' indicators if you were in a coffee shop and able to chat for several hours with a potential mate."


I gave this next one as part of the final exam.  Once again, there was no "correct" answer.

"You are able to design your own *long-term* romantic partner, but there is a twist:  you have 25 points that have to be spent among 5 different attributes:

a)  Looks

b)  Intelligence

c)  Kindness

d)  Annual Income

e)  Social Status

"A score of 5 in a category means that the trait has an 'average' score.  Remember that you only have 25 points to spend---you could spend them all equally, creating a person who was average at everything, or you could distribute them in a different manner.

"How do you distribute your points?  Why?  Do you believe that you would be more or less content with the results of such a point allocation in real life?

What do evolutionary psychologists mean by 'bi-strategic mating'?  How might environmental factors that influence bi-strategic mating priorities affect the preferences of someone who was assigning points in this manner to construct a potential romantic partner?" 


Please give these a shot if you have the chance; they seem to make great dinner party conversation.   Next time I will give the results of the classroom exercises and exam responses---I thought that some of the answers given were fascinating. 

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