Do you know what kind of an ideal partner you seek in life? Perhaps a funny, attractive or down-to-earth one, but a new study suggests that people's ideal partner preferences do not reflect any unique personal insight.
"The people in our study could very easily list their top three attributes in an ideal partner," said study lead author Jehan Sparks from the University of California in the US.
"We wanted to see whether those top three attributes really mattered for the person who listed them. As it turns out, they didn't," Sparks added.
For the findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, more than 700 participants nominated their top three ideals in a romantic partner -- attributes like funny, attractive or inquisitive.
Then they reported their romantic desire for a series of people they knew personally: some were blind date partners, others were romantic partners, and others were friends.
The researchers included a twist as each participant also considered the extent to which the same personal acquaintances possessed three attributes nominated by some other random person in the study.
For example, if Kris listed down-to-earth, intelligent and thoughtful as her own top three attributes, Vanessa also experienced more desire for acquaintances who were down-to-earth, intelligent and thoughtful.
The findings showed that participants experienced more romantic desire to the extent that these personal acquaintances possessed the top three attributes.
If Vanessa listed funny, attractive and inquisitive, she experienced more desire for partners who were funny, attractive and inquisitive.
"So in the end, we want partners who have positive qualities, but the qualities you specifically list do not actually have special predictive power for you," Sparks said.
The authors take these findings to mean that people don't have special insight into what they personally want in a partner.
The findings have implications for the way people approach online dating. People commonly spend many hours perusing online dating profiles in the search of someone who specifically matches their ideals. The researchers suggest that this effort may be misplaced.