Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Compensation Hypothesis, Or The You-Shaped Hole in My Heart
In this, my third installment in the Attractiveness series,
I want to discuss an age-old theory: The compensation hypothesis.
The basic idea is that we humans choose a mate (the term held
in highest esteem by researchers today, I personally think they
are equating us to animals and, oh, by the way, that is what
they are doing) based on what we ourselves are lacking. Hence,
the saying, “I have a you-shaped hole in my heart and you’re
the only one who can fill it.”
Or, as the candy hearts declare, “you make me complete.”
What does the research say, you ask? In the physical attractiveness
department, the compensation hypothesis rarely holds true. Instead,
the matching hypothesis has more support. That is, we are much more likely to choose someone in our league. For short-term liaisons, according to Buss and Schmidt in a detailed 1993 article found in the top-notch Psychological Review,
they found men might go after a highly attractive female but they don’t
really care as much as they want numbers—the more, the merrier. In
the long-term, men find attractiveness to be very important while women
want a man with resources.
As far as personality goes, the compensation hypothesis is still less true
than the matching. We tend to be attracted to someone like us on the outside
and inside. Both Freud and Jung argued we seek characteristics like our
idealized image of our opposite-sex parent. Bottom line, someone like us.
Part of this, Alexander and Buss argue, is that we need a long-term ally.
And the best clue that we may have found someone who will stick with us over
the long-term similarity, not opposites attracting.
The sex might be important, but will you be kind and share your resources with me over the long haul? Now, that’s what we look for in the long run.