Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Upside Of Irrationality: Chapter 7

Through a series of experiments, Dan Ariely documents the many ways in which humans behave irrationally. By understanding these human tendencies, we can both learn to behave more rationally when it is to our benefit, and better understand why those around us are behaving in the way they are.

Another way we adapt is in how we choose our mates or dating partners. Ariely notes that people of certain attractiveness levels appear to date others of similar levels (e.g. attractive people date attractive people, unattractive people date unattractive people), and he set out to find out how this happens.

Through experiments using Internet dating sites, Ariely was able to arrive at a few interesting conclusions. First, no matter how attractive we are (as judged by others), our scale of how attractive others are doesn't seem to change. That is, both unattractive people and attractive people rate others in a similar way.

But what does change is who we are likely to approach. We appear much more likely to approach people who are of a similar level of attractiveness to our own, even though we find others more attractive.

Through other experiments, Ariely finds that we do this by altering what we consider to be important in a mate. By stressing features other than attractiveness (e.g. sense of humour), we can actually make ourselves more attracted to someone who is nearer to our attractiveness level. This adaptation can serve to make us happy even when we are with someone whom we don't judge to be as attractive as others.

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