Monday, May 31, 2021

What Makes It Difficult to Start an Intimate Relationship: Poor flirting skills, shyness, low confidence coming from worries about looks, not meeting available mates, being too conservative & worrying that they would get hurt

What Makes It Difficult to Start an Intimate Relationship: A Taxonomy of the Reasons. Menelaos Apostolou. Europe's Journal of Psychology, Vol. 17 No. 2 (2021), May 31 2021.

Abstract: Within the context of an evolutionary theoretical framework, the current research attempted to study the reasons that cause difficulties in starting an intimate relationship in the Greek cultural context. In particular, using qualitative research methods (interviews and open-ended questionnaires), Study 1 (N = 205) identified 58 reasons that make it difficult for people to start an intimate relationship. Using an online sample of 1,095 Greek-speaking participants (N = 1,095), Study 2 classified these reasons in 12 factors. More than 80% of the participants indicated that they faced above moderate or severe difficulties in at least one factor, while about 40% faced difficulties in three or more factors. Significant gender and age effects were found across the different factors. Using second order principal components analysis, the 12 factors were classified in three broader domains of difficulties in starting a relationship.


In the current research, we identified 58 reasons, which clustered in 12 factors that caused difficulties to individuals in starting an intimate relationship. More than 80% of participants indicated that they faced above moderate or severe difficulties in at least one factor, while about 40% faced difficulties in three or more factors. Significant gender and age effects were also found across the different factors. Using second order principal components analysis, the 12 factors were classified in three broader domains of difficulties in starting a relationship. The low capacity for flirting was the domain in which participants exhibited the most difficulties.

Starting from the latter finding, it appears that the primary difficulty that prevented people in our sample to initiate a relationship, was a limited capacity to approach prospective mates and initiate flirting. This capacity was compromised by poor flirting skills, shyness, low confidence coming from worries about looks, not meeting available mates, but also by being too conservative and worrying that they would get hurt. We argue that the high prevalence of this difficulty is predominantly due to the mismatch problem: Until very recently, in ancestral pre-industrial societies, individuals would get access to mates through force or through arranged marriage, and they would not have to gain such access through initiating flirting. As a consequence, many people did not inherit from their ancestors a good flirting capacity, which is required for getting access to mates in a contemporary context, where mating is not regulated or forced.

With respect to poor flirting skills, a gender difference was found, which was the largest one across the 12 factors, with men indicating more severe difficulty than women. One possible reason is that due to the asymmetry in parental investment, it is usually men who take the initiative to approach women (Buss, 19892017Trivers, 1972). Thus, flirting skills are more important to men, and so lacking such skills may cause them more severe difficulties. Another reason can be that, in ancestral societies men gained access to women through force (Ghiglieri, 1999Tooby & Cosmides, 1988), and they have evolved to be aggressive and rough, which would facilitate them to do so. Yet, such traits are impairing when a man tries to initiate flirting.

Moving on, finding an intimate partner involves adjusting mating standards to realistic levels and use resources such as time and effort effectively. In the ancestral pre-industrial context, a great part of the choosing was made by parents, so mechanisms involved in mating effort and selection of mates may not have been properly adjusted to work well in a context where individuals have to find mates on their own. As a consequence, several people today may have unreasonably high standards, which drive them toward mates they can never get, rejecting mates that they could get. In addition, they may devote their energy in endeavors, such as making money, leaving little time for seeking mates.

This domain does not reflect only the mismatch problem, but also the optimal functioning of mechanisms that have evolved to facilitate mate choice. To begin with, being choosy may lead to people rejecting several mates before settling with one, having to stay single for some time. Nevertheless, because settling with the first mate that comes in someone’s way, is unlikely to be optimal—such a mate may lack desirable traits—being choosy constitutes an effective mechanism that can lead to better and more long-lasting intimate relationships. Thus, many people may tend to interpret being picky as a constraint from starting a relationship, which actually constrains them from starting a relationship with no prospects, giving them time to look for one which has prospects.

Similarly, because people are choosy, it would pay for mate-seekers to develop the qualities which are considered desirable before entering in the mating market. For instance, being educated, having a good job, and being financially independent, are highly desirable in the mating market (Buss, 2017Buss et al., 1990), but require considerable resources, such as money and time, in order to be developed. Accordingly, one possible beneficial strategy would be to allocate these resources in developing these qualities instead of seeking mates, and to enter in the mating market at a later time, having better chances of success. In the meantime, people may not have sufficient time, money or willingness to start a relationship, which albeit constraining in starting a relationship now, may be enabling in starting one at a future time.

This argument can be seen also in the significant gender difference in the “Too picky” factor which loads in this domain. Women gave significantly higher scores than men, suggesting that pickiness made it more difficult for them to start a relationship. Yet, due to the risk of pregnancy, a sexual encounter can commit a woman’s parental investment to a man who is unwilling to invest to her and to her children, a risk that men do not face. Women have evolved to be choosier than men as a way to protect them from such a risk (Buss, 2017). Consequently, women are likely to reject more potential mates than men before settling with one, resulting in more time being single, and so to be more likely to report pickiness as a reason that keeps them back from starting a relationship.

The “Constraints” domain appeared to be the least important one, preventing individuals from starting a relationship. This is expected, as severe health problems and handicaps are rare. In addition, health problems in particular arise usually at an older age, where individuals are not active mate-seekers. Moreover, being homosexual was another constraining factor. In Study 1, individuals indicated that being homosexual prevented them from starting a relationship because they were in the closet, or had difficulties in meeting other homosexual individuals. Yet, the prevalence of homosexuality is the population is about 5% (LeVay, 2010), which can explain why this was not a frequent reason in our sample.

The current research is not without limitations. To begin with, our sample is not representative of the population; for instance, single individuals are overrepresented. One possible reason is that those who were single would be more interested in participating in our study. In addition, our research was based on self-report data, and participants may not have had an adequate understanding of the reasons that caused them difficulties in starting a relationship. Furthermore, to our knowledge, this is the first study that has attempted to study the reasons that cause difficulties in starting a relationship. From the results of a single study, we cannot be certain neither that the factor structure we have derived here is the true one nor that we have identified all the reasons that cause difficulties in starting a relationship. Considerable replication and extension of the current work is required, in order to understand the reasons which prevent people from staring a relationship.

Replication in different cultural contexts is also necessary, because our findings are based on the Greek culture, and may not readily apply to other cultures. In particular, the factor structure and the importance assigned to each factor may differ across cultural settings. For instance, in cultural settings where marriages are arranged, the flirting capacity is unlikely to be the most important factor preventing people from starting an intimate relationship. On the other hand, in cultural settings where people find their own partners, the flirting capacity would an important factor preventing people from staring an intimate relationship.

In sum, the current study identified several reasons which constrained people from starting an intimate relationship. These reasons were classified in broader factors and domains, and sex and age effects were also found. Considerable more work is necessary however, in order to fully understand this complex phenomenon.

Rolf Degen summarizing... Mask wearers surrounded by mask wearers had the impression that the mask made others "stranger" than themselves

About the Acceptance of Wearing Face Masks in Times of a Pandemic. Claus-Christian Carbon. i-Perception, May 30, 2021.

Abstract: Wearing face masks in times of COVID-19 is one of the essential keystones for effectively decreasing the rate of new infections and thus for mitigating the negative consequences for individuals as well as for society. Acceptance of wearing masks is still low in many countries, making it extremely difficult to keep the pandemic at bay. In an experimental study, participants (N = 88) had to assess how strange they felt when wearing a face mask while being exposed to displays of groups of varying numbers of mask wearers. Three different types of face masks were shown: simple homemade masks, FFP2 masks, and loop scarfs. The higher the frequency of people wearing masks in the displayed social group, the less strange the participants felt about themselves, an essential precondition for accepting wearing masks. This effect of a descriptive social norm was particularly effective when people saw others wearing less intrusive masks, here, simple homemade masks.

Keywords: perceived strangeness, social acceptance, COVID-19, virus, face masks, psychology, pandemic

Wearing face masks in times of COVID-19 is one of the essential keystones for effectively decreasing the rate of new infections and for mitigating the negative consequences for individuals as well as for society. Wearing masks does not belong to natural human’s habits and is still not easily acceptable for many people (Wong, 2020) and has been emerged as a political issue (Rabinovitch-Fox, 2020)—many people just feel strange when wearing masks (Robb, 2021) and therefore will not follow recommendations to put on masks in public. Here, we tested how the mere exposure to people in the social environment who do or do not wear masks can dramatically change the feeling of strangeness when wearing a mask oneself.

It is of particular interest that the number of mask wearers had dissociative effects on both dependent variables employed in the present study: The participants experienced the idea of wearing masks themselves as less and less strange when more people in the shown social group wore face masks as well. At the same time, however, they kept perceiving the other mask wearers in the displayed social group as strange, especially when they wore loop scarfs, in this case, black, loop scarfs. We suggest that this dissociation of effects is the outcome of two different mechanisms that are at work here: A more perceptual one and a more cognitive (normative) one. To illustrate this, we would like to give an example: Imagine you are invited by a good friend who grew up in Venice to visit his/her beautiful hometown to which you have never been. You travel to Venice, and upon arriving there in a small taxi boat, you realise that the world-famous Carnival of Venice is well underway. People all around you, including your friend who is welcoming you at the landing stage, are wearing the typical, highly elaborate masks. You were not prepared for the festival, so you do not have a mask. You will, most probably, experience the following: The people around you will appear somewhat strange to you—this mainly perceptual effect is based on an insufficient familiarity with the specific disguise. Furthermore, with such masks on, we cannot rely anymore on typical processes which we effortlessly use in normal, everyday life without any masks, for example, reading the emotional state (Carbon, 2020) and further mental states (Schmidtmann et al., 2020) of others by merely processing the holistic facial information. Yet, you will probably feel less strange about yourself as soon as you put on a mask as well—this effect traces back to the descriptive social norm that is established by the outward appearance (the shared dress code) of the majority of people around you in this specific situation. This effect of taking social norms into account is a cognitively based effect. It is important to understand this perceptuo-cognitive dissociation because it is not limited to wearing masks: We often adopt descriptive social norms that are signalled by the empirical conditions of present situations, and we try to behave like the others around us, but this does not necessarily mean that we like or would principally endorse this behaviour as well. In the present experiment, the perception of others as being strange was particularly strong for loop scarfs and FFP2 masks. The loop scarfs resemble so-called bandanas—may be because of negative connotations triggered by the resemblance with the cliché masking of bank robbers in movies or cartoons. The FFP2 masks, at least at the early phase of the pandemic when this study was conducted, were obviously also seen as being strange—but probably due to another phenomenon: Most people were unfamiliar with this kind of mask which should have fundamentally changed meanwhile due to the everyday usage of such masks.

So, which masks seem to be optimal for everyday usage? From a physical (Verma et al., 2020), mathematical (Mittal et al., 2020) as well as a medical (Chu et al., 2020) perspective, there are clear answers to this question: The mask should be capable of filtering a maximum of airborne particles, so the certified face masks with FFP2 (N95; filtering at least 95% of airborne particles, if they show a diameter of at least 100 nm; O'Dowd et al., 2020) and FFP3 (N99; 99%) filtering levels seem to be the best (O'Dowd et al., 2020). From a psychological perspective, the answer might differ. In the present study, we observed least perceived strangeness when observing other people wearing less intrusive masks, concretely simple self-made masks, while loop scarfs and FFP2 masks showed higher levels of perceived strangeness in this respect. Meanwhile, participants did not feel particularly strange themselves, actually even a bit less strange than the others shown as a social group. Such simple face masks offer a series of other advantages: First, they are relatively easy and comfortable to use (Yao et al., 2019), they can be easily and privately produced by simple means, and they are cheap enough to equip many people around the globe in high quantity and fresh quality. Second, as the suggestions for wearing masks for private persons refer to the protection of others and because there is no clear evidence of a difference in protecting others between simple masks and FFP2/N95 masks (Jefferson et al., 2020), simple masks prevent a shortage of professional medical masks that should be primarily reserved for medical workers. Third, in our study, the simple masks showed the highest acceptance rate in terms of feeling least odd when imaging wearing such a mask. This is an important precondition to face masks actually being worn in different situations and over a longer period (see MacIntyre et al., 2009MacIntyre & Chughtai, 2015), especially by non-medical workers (Matusiak et al., 2020). Furthermore, they do not emit large amounts of microplastic fibres as one-way masks might do (Fadare & Okoffo, 2020). Of course, such general ideas should be adjusted for specific contexts and fields of applications, for example, it was shown that wearing masks has race-specific effects on other perceivers (Christiani et al., in press). This last point also calls for extensions of such studies as we only tested a relatively narrow sample employing White European faces only wearing three different types of face masks that were popular and available in April 2020. For instance, there are reports and societally meaningful discussions on interactive effects between wearing specific masks and ethnic background and the morphological group of the wearer, for example, black bandanas worn by people of colour which triggered racial stereotypes (Ray, 2020). This should be systematically analysed to understand and to counteract against such mechanisms.

In general, our results will also assist policymakers in predicting the future acceptance of wearing masks in which generally more people comply with these new hygienic practices, following role models wearing masks and propagating them instead of denying and problematising them (Hornsey et al., 2020).

Women with higher creativity (ideational fluency) had higher mate appeal; intelligence and emotional competence did not significantly predict appeal; perceived abilities seem more relevant for attraction than measured ones

What you see is what you want to get: Perceived abilities outperform objective test performance in predicting mate appeal in speed dating. Gabriela Hofer et al. Journal of Research in Personality, May 30 2021, 104113.


• Women with higher creativity (ideational fluency) had higher mate appeal.

• Intelligence and emotional competence did not significantly predict mate appeal.

• More substantial effects were found for speed-dating ratings of the same abilities.

• Controlling for physical attractiveness further reduced effects of abilities.

• Perceived abilities seem to be more relevant for attraction than measured ones.

Abstract: Are intelligent, creative, and emotionally competent people more desirable? Evolution-based theories and studies on the ideal partner suggest that they are. We aimed to assess whether verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence, creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence are associated with higher real-life mate appeal. In speed dates, 87 women and 88 men met up to 14 members of the opposite sex (2188 observations). While only one measured ability—women’s creativity—was significantly associated with mate appeal, ability perceptions by speed-dating partners could broadly predict mate appeal. Effects of perceived and measured abilities were substantially reduced after controlling for physical attractiveness. These results suggest that the investigated abilities play a lesser role in initial attraction than proposed in the past.

Keywords: mate appealintelligencecreativityemotional competenceperceived abilitiesspeed datingperson perceptionsocial relations modeling