These Ads Just Got Personal

The Evolutionary Psychology Laboratory at SUNY New Paltz, a research team with the Psychology Department, has put out a survey to all students examining the mechanisms and abilities that underlying human mating psychology.

The survey,  “Psychology of Personal Ads: Phase I” focuses on personal ads used on online dating sites — what men and women place value on, how deception is used to attract a mate, and an individuals ability to detect deception in  personal ads.

“[With this survey] I’m hoping to create a new measure for a construct called mating intelligence,” Briana Tauber, a second-year psychology graduate student and principal investigator of the survey said. “I’m trying to come up with an ability based measure of this construct. Some kind of behavior that you can’t really fake or fudge,” Tauber said.

According to Tauber, mating intelligence in part refers to a person’s ability to detect deceptions when a potential mate advertises themselves, in this case, through a text medium.

“Forming an online relationship is different in that you don’t get that face-to-face interaction,” Tauber said. “You get that whole ‘Catfish’ thing going on where you don’t know who is on the other end and people can lie in personal ads, and part of mate intelligence is mate deception.”

In the survey, participants are asked to write their own honest personal ad that they would use on a dating website as well as one from the perspective of the gender they are attracted to that the participants might respond to — in essence, a “fake.”

Tauber said she plans to use these “fakes” as part of the second phase of the survey to determine if people can detect the false ads from the “real” ads and what qualities allow them to do so. Depending on their ability to identify the fake ads from the real ads, participants will be given a “mating intelligence score.”

“When most people think of intelligence, they probably think of general I.Q. That just looks at how good you are at math tests and spacial tests, but there’s so much more to intelligence,” Tauber said. “I’m hoping [the survey results] will add to the body of intelligence research as well as information on human mating psychology, like how men and women prefer different qualities.”

Tauber said other evolutionary studies have shown   that what women generally look for in men are resources to provide for them and their offspring while men look for signs of good genetic reproductive traits in women.

However, she said this differs from what men and women advertise when looking to attract a mate.

“Men look for signs of attractiveness in women, so women are probably better off advertising something like ‘Oh, I’m 5’3 and these are my physical features.’ Whereas I don’t think women look for physical features as much as men, instead looking for signs of stability and trustworthiness [in men],” Tauber said. “In most cases men and women incorporate this kind of information in their personal ads.”

Tauber said because the survey was put out to college students, many of the personal ads received from the survey also included participants’ majors and their plans for the future.

Tauber said while the fact that the vast majority of the participants were college students might serve as a limiter on the survey’s results, it is during the ages of 18 to 21 when humans are the most fertile and have a stable grasp on what they are attracted to.

The two-part survey is part of Tauber’s masters thesis, which she says will be near completion by the end of the year. Her hope is that the survey results will lead to her work being published.