Progression Bias: Your Dating Standards are Likely Lower Than You Think

Progression Bias: Your Dating Standards are Likely Lower Than You Think

(Link): Progression bias: Your dating standards are likely lower than you think

Excerpts:

January 13, 2022

We seem to have a “progression bias” that nudges us toward pro-relationship decisions and away from breaking up.

…One fundamental assumption underlying the idea that it’s harder to start a relationship holds that people are generally picky when dating.

Whether it is having checklists or deal-breakers, people tend to conceptualize dating as a trial period for assessing their partner for a more serious long-term relationship. And it is, to some extent.

But a recent review suggests we might not be as selective as we think. Published in the journal (Link): Personality and Social Psychology Review, the paper offers evidence that people are more likely to make pro-relationship decisions at nearly every step of a relationship — from agreeing to a first date to maintaining a marriage — even at points where we might think our selectiveness would nudge us toward breaking up. 

When you consider the obstacles a couple needs to overcome to form a serious romantic relationship, it is a wonder people end up together at all.

To start a relationship, two people need to meet, find each other reasonably attractive and sane, overcome any first-date awkwardness, establish a bond, and agree to keep the relationship going.

Sure, ending a relationship isn’t easy, especially when children are involved. But it seems more straightforward than building one.

One fundamental assumption underlying the idea that it’s harder to start a relationship holds that people are generally picky when dating.

Whether it is having checklists or deal-breakers, people tend to conceptualize dating as a trial period for assessing their partner for a more serious long-term relationship. And it is, to some extent.

But a recent review suggests we might not be as selective as we think. Published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, the paper offers evidence that people are more likely to make pro-relationship decisions at nearly every step of a relationship — from agreeing to a first date to maintaining a marriage — even at points where we might think our selectiveness would nudge us toward breaking up. 

A progression bias in romantic relationships
The main thesis of the paper is that people have a so-called progression bias in romantic relationships, meaning they tend to make “decisions that serve to initiate, advance, and maintain romantic relationships” rather than choices that lead to “dissolution (e.g., rejecting or breaking up with suitors).” 

Evidence for the progression bias 

…In terms of early-stage dating (which includes choosing whom to date), the results of multiple speed-dating studies suggest that we are willing to date people who do not live up to our preconceived standards.

…“In other words, although people discerned between potential partners who did versus did not meet their ideals when evaluating them ‘on paper,’ that selectivity vanished after a single interaction with the person,” wrote the researchers behind the recent review.

Not only are people less selective than they might think, but studies also suggest that we tend to form significant bonds with partners much earlier than previously thought — sometimes within a few months — and that these bonds continue to grow even when signs of incompatibility are clear. …

…Another factor that likely nudges people to make pro-relationship decisions is a lack of alternatives. For example, a 2019 meta-analysis found that a lack of appealing alternative people to date was, along with relationship investments, the top predictor of relationship commitment. 

You can read the article in its entirety (Link): here


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