Saturday, April 3, 2021

Adult playfulness: An update on an understudied individual differences variable and its role in romantic life... including possible negative effects of playfulness

Adult playfulness: An update on an understudied individual differences variable and its role in romantic life. Kay Brauer  René T. Proyer  Garry Chick. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, March 16 2021.

Abstract: There is increasing interest in the study of individual differences in playfulness in adults; the way people frame or reframe situations in a way that they are experienced as personally interesting, and/or intellectually stimulating, and/or entertaining. In this review, we describe and discuss its role for romantic life. After a brief introduction, we will describe theoretical approaches as to why playfulness is important in romantic life (e.g., the signal theory of playfulness) and give an overview on empirical findings on assortative mating and its role in romantic relationships (e.g., for relationship satisfaction). Finally, we discuss future directions on playfulness in romantic life and singles and open research questions.

Check also Moraes YL, Varella MAC, Silva CSA, Valentova JV (2021). Adult playful individuals have more long- and short-term relationships. Evolutionary Human Sciences 3, e24, 1–10.


While the majority of findings suggests that playfulness contributes positively to relationships, no study has yet examined negative consequences of playfulness in relationships. Drawing on Berger et al.'s (2017) hypothesis that a maladaptive reframing process might contribute to develop psychiatric disorders that are related to cognitive biases (e.g., anxiety disorder); one might expect that some types of playfulness are associated with phenomena such as jealousy, the perceived threat of one's relationship (Pfeiffer & Wong, 1989). Taking the findings on relations with the mistrust facet into account (Proyer et al., 2019a), one might expect that whimsical playfulness accounts for actor effects in jealousy, whereas partners of those high in Lighthearted playfulness might show greater jealousy due to perceptions of lower commitment to the relationship and greater concern of the dissolution of the relationship. Furthermore, attachment styles describe how people approach and deal with close relationships (Fraley & Roisman, 2019) based on the two orthogonal dimensional anxiety (i.e., worries over close relationships) and avoidance (i.e., reducing interdependence by avoiding closeness). It would be desirable to examine potential consequences (e.g., mediator effects) of attachment on the associations between playfulness and relationship outcomes. One might argue that playfulness would go along with secure attachment (i.e., low anxiety and avoidance) as playful people have learned to adopt positive views on their relationships when learning their social skills, boundaries, and needs of others in childhood, as discussed with regard to the literature on children's playfulness (e.g., Burghardt, 2005; Lieberman, 1977; Youell, 2008).

Couple‐centered variables have not yet been examined. For example, dyadic coping describes how couples deal with stress by examining the interactions and coping strategies of each partner (Bodenmann, 2005). Prior studies have shown that playfulness relates to adaptive coping mechanisms, which permits dealing with stressors and stress positively (Chang et al., 2013; Magnuson & Barnett, 2013; Qian & Yarnal, 2011). Amongst others, those high in playfulness actively seek social support and companionship to reduce stress. However, no study has yet examined how couples deal with stressors from within (e.g., disagreement) and outside the relationship (e.g., child loss). While one might expect that playfulness would contribute to dyadic coping, this needs to be empirically tested since Herzberg (2013) has shown that individual and dyadic coping are not redundant (e.g., dyadic coping being the stronger predictor of RS and mediating the association between individual coping efforts and RS). Thus, it would be desirable to examine whether playfulness relates to dyadic coping similarly to findings from individuals and to study its effects for outcomes such as RS or disagreement.

Longitudinal studies could help clarifying relationships with criteria such as dissolution or having children and also address partners' co‐development of playfulness over time. The latter could clarify whether partners might become (1) more similar in their playfulness and (2) whether one's playfulness might spillover to the partner's playfulness. There is evidence that playfulness is malleable through minimal interventions (e.g., raising awareness of how one uses playfulness in everyday life; Proyer et al., 2020; Proyer et al., 2021) and it is feasible that one could be stimulated by their partner to be more playful—or, at least, do more playful things and behave more playful. Moreover, effects of co‐development on outcomes such as the quality and quantity of conflicts and RS would be of interest (e.g., Allemand & Martin, 2016).

Prior research has relied mainly on self‐reports of playfulness. An extension to partner/peer reports of playfulness and instruments that allow a good description of playful behaviors in couples is desirable. For the latter, the PLC (Proyer et al., 2018b) might be a good starting point, pending revision of the initial list of items. Also, observational designs could help to learn more about how playfulness is expressed and used in couples. For example, how partners use their playfulness to solve practical problems and behave in situations that potentially go along with conflict could be examined.

Adult playful individuals have more long- and short-term relationships

Moraes YL, Varella MAC, Silva CSA, Valentova JV (2021). Adult playful individuals have more long- and short-term relationships. Evolutionary Human Sciences 3, e24, 1–10.

Abstract: Number of romantic/sexual relationships is suggested as a proxy of potential reproductive success. Cross-culturally, both sexes desire playful long-term mates and playfulness predicts relationship quality. It is yet to be tested, however, if playfulness is associated with number of long- and short-term relationships. We hypothesised that specific playfulness dimensions would correlate with the number of lifetime short- and long-term relationships. We expected that lighthearted playfulness would be associated with more short-term relationships, while other-directed playfulness would be associated with the number of long-term relationships. In total, 1191 Brazilian adults (mean age = 28.7 years, standard deviation = 10.2) responded to online sociodemographic questions and a playfulness inventory. Other-directed playfulness positively predicted the number of short-term and long-term partners in men and whimsical playfulness predicted the number of short-term relationships in women. This suggests that playfulness is used by both sexes to compete for access to more and better mates, but in slightly different ways. For the first time, we show that playful adults have more partners and that playfulness can be used as a part of mating strategies.

Keywords: Short- and long-term relationships; adult playfulness; mate selection; sex differences

Although the men indicated a willingness to pursue slightly older partners in surveys, they rarely acted on these statements in real-life dating

Partner preference and age: User's mating behavior in online dating. Marketa Setinova, Renáta Topinková. Journal of Family Research, Mar 29 2021.


Objective: We test whether real online-user mating behavior corresponds with expectations from both the sociobiological and social perspectives and explore the age differentials that individuals opt for when searching for a mate and how this evolves relative to the user’s age and gender.

Background: Age plays a vital role in partner choice. Previous studies have focused primarily on age differences between couples and their self-reported preferences for partners of a certain age. However, little is known about how age affects behavior in the online dating market.

Method: We use behavioral data from a Czech online dating app, Pinkilin and analyze 197,519 invitations that users sent to each other in July 2017.

Results: Men strongly prefer young women, and women prefer partners of their age or slightly older. At older ages, men’s preference for younger women widens, while women's preferences become more diverse. Homogamous tendencies are stronger among younger users and women.

Conclusion: Overall, our results corroborate those of previous research on online dating, but we extend this research in terms of age differences in the Czech context.

Keywords: online dating, age homogamy, partner preference, Czechia


In surveys, men state an acceptable partner age interval of 10 years younger and five years older. As they age, their willingness to pursue younger women increases, but their non-acceptance of older women remains constant (Conway et al. 2015; Schwarz & Hassebrauck 2012). Data from online dating confirm men’s strong preference for young women and their avoidance in terms of contacting older partners (Fiore & Donath 2005; Rudder 2014; Skopek et al. 2011). Our research is in line with the previous evidence. Young men showed a preference for women their age. However, this preference declined with age, and they gradually shifted to younger partners. With age, they grew more ambitious and were willing to cross larger age gaps toward younger partners. Overall, the men in our data set avoided older women, including women who were only slightly their senior. This avoidance was stable for all ages, thereby confirming that although the men indicated a willingness to pursue slightly older partners in surveys, they rarely acted on these statements in real-life dating. This highlights the importance of mixing digital trace data with traditional surveys, as stated preferences may not necessarily translate to future actions (Schmitz et al. 2009).

As for women, their stated partner age interval was eight years older and five years younger. With age, they grew accepting of younger partners and became less willing to contact older men (Conway et al. 2015; Schwarz & Hassebrauck 2012). Looking at the online dating market, women showed a tendency to mate with partners of their age and slightly older. Women under 30 were not open to contact from younger men, but as they aged, their openness toward younger partners increased (Rudder 2014; Skopek et al. 2011). Again, this was largely supported in our Czech data set. The youngest women had a preference for older partners over partners their age. However, up to 30 years old, they preferred partners of the same age or up to nine years their senior. As women aged, they were more open to younger men and more restrictive toward older men. The older the woman was, the more willing she was to cross larger age gaps toward younger partners. As mentioned earlier, the same trend could be observed for men. However, there was a lag as to when this shift toward younger partners occurred. Women started initiating contact with significantly younger men (5–9 years younger) later, in their mid-forties, while men developed this preference around their mid-thirties.

The support for evolutionary theory in our analysis is, therefore, fairly strong. Two interesting findings are noteworthy. First, in comparison to previous research, men were, from an early age, very hesitant to contact older women. This can be seen as an impact of strong local gender norms that, at least in men’s eyes, may highlight the importance of reproduction in dating and support the paradigm that the husband should be older than his wife. Men’s tendency to avoid older women in the early stages of dating could also be one of the mechanisms behind the higher incidence of male age hypogamy in Czechia (Katrňák 2008). Second, we observed older women around their mid-forties contacting significantly younger men. This tendency was visible in past online dating research (Rudder 2014; Skopek et al. 2011) but did not fully correspond with expectations from evolutionary theory. Perhaps older women are aware of the marriage squeeze and believe they have more chances with a younger partner who might be attracted to their experience and status. Alternatively, they may be more economically independent than younger women and may not be drawn to older partners because they already have their own resources (Rudder 2014, confirms that response rates to older women’s messages from younger males are fairly high). Growing levels of female hypogamy by older women in Czechia might support this hypothesis (Katrňák 2008). Another interpretation could be related to seeking a sexual partner rather than one for reproduction. Not all dating site users are in search of a serious relationship, and older women seeking younger males for sexual pleasure, called “cougars” in popular culture, can offer noncommitted sex and demand no financial provision or status from men in return (Lowen 2019). Furthermore, in the post-reproductive phase, women may not place such importance on status, even when seeking a serious relationship. Without further data, however, it is difficult to understand the reason behind these two inconsistencies.

We expected people to feel less culpable about the outcome if they acted in accordance with their superior’s injunction than if they made the decision themselves, but they felt more culpable when they followed orders

Feelings of Culpability: Just Following Orders Versus Making the Decision Oneself. Maayan S. Malter, Sonia S. Kim, Janet Metcalfe. Psychological Science, April 2, 2021.

Abstract: In five experiments (N = 1,490), participants were asked to imagine themselves as programmers of self-driving cars who had to decide how to program the car to respond in a potential accident: spare the driver or spare pedestrians. Alternatively, participants imagined that they were a mayor grappling with difficult moral dilemmas concerning COVID-19. Either they, themselves, had to decide how to program the car or which COVID-19 policy to implement (high-agency condition) or they were told by their superior how to act (low-agency condition). After learning that a tragic outcome occurred because of their action, participants reported their felt culpability. Although we expected people to feel less culpable about the outcome if they acted in accordance with their superior’s injunction than if they made the decision themselves, participants actually felt more culpable when they followed their superior’s order. Some possible reasons for this counterintuitive finding are discussed.

Keywords: decision making, judgment, morality, autonomous vehicles, perspective taking, COVID-19, trolley problem, agency, Nuremberg defense, open data, open materials

Women find men less attractive as new long-term partners if they have first imagined them as one-night stands; men find women less attractive as one-night stands if they have first imagined them as new long-term partners

Short term, long term: An unexpected confound in human-mating research. Paola Bressan. Evolution and Human Behavior, April 2 2021.

Abstract: Here I report that, when partnered people judge the facial attractiveness of potential mates for a short- and a long-term relationship, the order in which the two conditions are presented biases responses in a systematic manner. Women and men display symmetrical biases. Women find men less attractive as new long-term partners if they have first imagined them as one-night stands. Men find women less attractive as one-night stands if they have first imagined them as new long-term partners. On a total sample of over 3000 individuals from different studies, I show that both biases are robust and replicable in partnered people and neither is found in singles. Alas, so far no study has statistically controlled the effect of the order in which participants consider the two types of relationships. Whatever their interpretation, these biases are capable of producing spurious or inconsistent associations and mislead us when we compare studies that on the surface appear similar—most notably, direct and conceptual replications.

Keywords: Facial attractivenessMate choiceShort-term relationshipsLong-term relationshipsPartnership statusOrder effectsSex differences