First impressions really are everything, according to a new study.
Information a woman remembers from herfirst impression of a man is tied to what she is looking for in a relationship, a group of researchers from University of Michigan-Flint found in a study published this week in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Researchers made a video of a college-age guy introducing himself. Then they instructed a group of college-age womento look at the guy in the video as either a potential long-term relationship or a potential short-term one — i.e. a one night stand.
“We wanted to get a typical college-aged male, the man we selected was a student here. He agreed to be filmed, he’s tall, but we were really careful in terms of making sure there were no cues of status. We wanted to make sure the women would look at him as a typical college-age man,” said Terrence Horgan, one of the researchers.
After watching the guy’s video, the women were given a pop quiz: What did he look like, and what did he say about himself?
The women instructed to view the guy as a potential fling couldn’t remember as much about what he said, but they more accuratelyremembered what he looked like. The women viewing him as a potential long-term relationship struggled with remembering his appearance, but they knew more about his background.
Why is that? Horgan points to an evolutionary explanation.
“In short term mating context, what matters most are the quality of the man’s genes, [because] you aren’t likely to benefit from his resources,” Horgan said. In other words, while pregnancy is possible in a short term relationship, the man’s career, goals and intelligence matter less.
“This is part of the theoretical underpinnings of the notion of adaptive memory,” Horgan explains.
“Some argue that we have enhanced memory for information that might benefit us. Memory is really at the foundation of decision making, and so depending on a person’s mating orientation what they remember may have implications for the decisions they make,” he said.