For Couples, Time Can Upend the Laws of Attraction

John Tierney in The New York Times:

CoupleThere are hundreds of romance novels in a category that some have named “Plain Jane and Hot Stud,” a theme that was equally popular when Jane Austen wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” Tall and good-looking, endowed with a “noble mien,” Mr. Darcy initially denigrates Elizabeth Bennet’s appearance: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” He notes “more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form.” Even worse for the rich Mr. Darcy, her family’s social status is “so decidedly beneath my own.” His initial reactions make perfect sense to evolutionary psychologists, because these preferences can improve the odds of passing on one’s genes. Beauty and physical symmetry are markers of a mate’s health and genetic fitness; status and wealth make it more likely that children will survive to adulthood.

…In the 2012 survey, people were asked a version of the famous question in Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century poem: “Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?” A great many, it turns out. In the survey, 33 percent of men and 43 percent of women answered yes when asked if they had ever fallen in love with someone they did not initially find attractive. Dr. Fisher terms this process “slow love,” and says it is becoming more common as people take longer to marry. “Everyone is terrified that online dating is reducing mate value to just a few superficial things like beauty — whether you swipe left or right on Tinder,” she said in an interview. “But that’s just the start of the process. Once you meet someone and get to know them, their mate value keeps changing.” When the survey respondents were asked what had changed their feelings, the chief reasons they gave were “great conversations,” “common interests,” and “came to appreciate his/her sense of humor.” All of those factors contribute to Mr. Darcy’s change of heart in “Pride and Prejudice.”

More here.

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