New research indicates that romantic successes and failures can have profound impacts on how men think

A man’s popularity in the dating market can influence his sexual attitudes and even his views about socio-political issues, according to new research published in the scientific journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology† The study offers new experimental evidence that being unpopular with the opposite sex can shift heterosexual men’s views about the minimum wage and healthcare.

“It may seem farfetched to say that an individual’s dating life can influence the individual’s socio-political attitudes. Yet, it is becoming more evident that romantic successes and failures in our everyday dating life can have profound impacts on the ways we think and act,” said study author Francesca R. Luberti, a postdoctoral research fellow at Nipissing University in North Bay.

“One needs to look no further than the ‘incel’ phenomenon to have a concrete example of how dating can influence politics. Involuntary celibate (incel) men (an internet subculture that’s become more popular in recent years) hold misogynistic attitudes and oppose gender equality because they believe they are unfairly rejected by women. I was interested in these phenomena, and I wanted to experimentally test whether dating popularity with opposite-sex potential partners could really affect heterosexual people’s socio-political attitudes.”

In the study, which included 237 single heterosexual young adults, the participants first rated their self-perceived level of desire as a romantic partner. The participants were then asked to record a short video of themselves in which they explained why they would make a good dating partner.

The participants were told that this video would be viewed by five opposite-sex peers, who would provide feedback in the form of brief video responses. While waiting for the video feedback, the participants completed demographic questionnaires and watched an ostensible loading page where links to the feedback videos slowly appeared one by one.

In reality, however, the video feedback had been prerecorded by actors and actresses. The participants randomly received one of six combinations of feedback, ranging from all positive to all negative.

After viewing the feedback videos, the participants then completed questionnaires related to traditional gender roles, casual sex, the minimum wage and healthcare, and implicit sexual and political attitudes.

“We found that unpopular men (those who received a higher number of rejections from their peers) reported less support for casual sex than popular men (those who received a higher number of positive responses). Dating popularity did not affect any of women’s socio-political attitudes,” Luberti told PsyPost.

“We also found that unpopular men reported lower positive affect (positive emotions such as happiness, enthusiasm, and pride) than popular men, and in turn men with lower positive affect reported less support for casual sex, as well as less support for increasing the minimum wage and access to healthcare, than men with higher positive affect.”

“Thus, the main take away from this study is that women’s socio-political attitudes do not seem to be affected by dating popularity, whereas men’s dating popularity causes changes in men’s positive emotions and these changes in turn can shift some, although not all, or men’s socio-political attitudes,” Luberti said.

The new findings are in line with previous research, which has found that dating popularity is associated with men’s support (or lack of support) for casual sex.

“While earlier studies had already shown that dating popularity affects men’s attitudes toward casual sex, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first experiment showing that experimentally manipulated dating feedback can also indirectly affect attitudes toward the minimum wage and access to healthcare through changes in men’s positive emotions,” Luberti explained.

“Since these findings were not predicted a priorifurther research is necessary to understand why we found significant relationships between dating popularity, positive emotions, and these pro-social attitudes in heterosexual men.”

“Further research should also try to replicate these findings in other samples, since we only collected data from young heterosexual Australian participants. It would be important to replicate these findings in other countries or include non-heterosexual participants, for example, to further prove the robustness of these patterns,” Luberti said.

“Moreover, with this study, we could only prove that unpopular men reported significantly different attitudes than popular men, but we could not show whether it is receiving more rejections, receiving fewer positive responses, or both that causes shifts in attitudes. These mechanisms should also be further investigated in future research.”

The new findings are also in line with research that has indicated the incel subculture is driven in part by mating markets with higher competition among men.

“Overall, this study provides evidence that dating can impact some of heterosexual men’s politics,” Luberti said. “Phenomena like the incel subculture have caused real-world violence, and in recent years increasing political polarization has resulted in more political conflicts. Scientific research that focuses on mating and reproductive strategies can provide valuable insights into the causes of these current social issues.”

The study, “Changes in Positive Affect Due to Popularity in an Experimental Dating Context Influence Some of Men’s, but Not Women’s, Socio-Political Attitudes“, was authored by Francesca R. Luberti, Khandis R. Blake, and Robert C. Brooks.

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