Higher levels of self-control are not always related to higher levels of selectivity in the dating scene, according to new research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. For some people, having high levels of self-control is associated with being less selective of partners.
The study suggests that sociosexual orientation, or one’s propensity for short-term sexual relationships, plays a key role.
“Individuals with an unrestricted [sociosexual orientation] have an overall promiscuous behavioral tendency, and pursue relationships with the main goal of having sexual intercourse,” the authors of the study explained. “Individuals with a restricted [sociosexual orientation], on the other hand, require a greater degree of emotional closeness and commitment before engaging in sexual intercourse, and pursue long-term romantic relationships.”
Over a four year period, the researchers organized 11 speed-dating events that each included about 15 men and 15 women — resulting in a total sample of 342 single, heterosexual participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 30.
Prior to the speed-dating event, the participants completed assessments of self-control and sociosexual orientation. During the event, a male and female participant were seated across from one another and given three minutes to discuss any topic. They indicated if they were interested in going on another date with the person they just met and whether they were interest in this person as either a short-term sexual partner or a long-term relationship partner.
As expected, the researchers found that women tended to be more selective than men. Surprisingly, however, those with greater self-control did not tend to be more selective of their partners.
But the researchers found there was a significant interaction effect of self-control and sociosexuality in predicting selectivity. Higher levels of self-control were related to higher selectivity among people with a more restricted sociosexual orientation. On the other hand, higher levels of self-control were related to lower selectivity among those with a more unrestricted sociosexual orientation.
“Our findings demonstrate that self-control does not ‘blindly’ stimulate people to respond in a certain way to potential partners,” the researchers explained. “Instead, it enables them to be either selective or unselective depending on their personal mating goal. It is important to note that in both cases, goal achievement requires self-control — either because attraction needs to be suppressed, or because attraction needs to be acted upon.”
“Additionally, our results showed that [sociosexual orientation] was negatively associated with sexual selectivity, but positively with long-term romantic selectivity — i.e. resulting in diverging tendencies that appear to have canceled each other out,” the researchers added. “It thus seems that not all unrestricted individuals follow up on the strategy of being rather unselective to increase their mating chances — only those with high levels of self-control do so, and only to pursue short-term sexual relationships.”
The study, “The role of self-control and sociosexual orientation in partner selection: A speed-dating study“, was authored by Tila M. Pronk, Johan C. Karremans, Andrew Demetriou, Leander van der Meij, and Jaap J. A. Denissen.