Why should we please our partner

When we introduce our new partner to friends or family, we eagerly await their judgment. If the best friend then shows his thumb down, we start brooding and the new conquest may also lose its reputation with us.

People who are close to us can therefore significantly influence our choice of partner. But not just them.

The psychologist Skyler Place from Indiana University and his colleague Jens Asendorpf from Berlin's Humboldt University and their research team have found amazing things: We even allow ourselves to be influenced by the judgment of complete strangers when choosing a partner.

This realization seems strange at first, since the choice of partner is ultimately seen by everyone as an individual process in which you decide for yourself how well the other suits you.

We copy each other's choice of partner

"But humans, like many animals, pay attention to the preferences of others in order to make the search process more effective. The one that others find good could also be a good choice for ourselves," explains Place.

"Mate choice copying" is the name given to the phenomenon that when choosing a partner, one is guided by the choice of conspecifics. In the animal kingdom, this behavior is mainly known in fish and birds. But biologists assume that this "copying of partner choice" could also exist in humans.

To test this assumption, Place and his team invited 40 women and men to the laboratory. They showed the test subjects eight video recordings of a speed dating event.

Before the individual recordings were played, the women were shown the photo of the man in the speed dating video and the men were shown the woman. Now the participants were asked to decide on a scale from one to nine how interesting the respective person would be for them as a potential partner.

In the next step, the study participants looked at how the person in the photo interacted with the opposite sex at the speed dating event. Then they should give another judgment as to whether that person would be a suitable partner.

If the male participants were interested in a woman, this was usually reinforced by watching the video. The interest grew the more the man in the video was also interested in the woman - but only if the participants rated the man in the video as at least as attractive or more attractive as themselves.

"With men, people's relative attractiveness plays a role - not everyone can influence their behavior, only other men who they think are at least as attractive as they are," says Place.

With women, however, interest only grew if the woman seemed interested in the other person during speed dating. If it wasn't, the participants' interest also decreased. The attractiveness of the woman in the video didn't matter.

Apparently, the psychologists conclude, strangers actually have an influence on our choice of partner.

But people also influence our behavior in other contexts, explains Place. If you go to a party where you don't know anyone, you could also say to yourself: What do I care what anyone here thinks about me!

"In reality, we pay great attention to what others think or do in our social environment," says the psychologist.

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