Focus on Research

February 14, 2013 1:16 pm

Valentine’s Day research focuses on romance

Business school might be a great place to meet a spouse but what else determines your choice of partner? Research from Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that political affiliation is an important determining factor.

“Someone with a graduate degree is considered attractive but shared politics has a similar effect,” says Neil Malhotra, associate professor at Stanford, who conducted the research.

Working with Gregory Huber, political science professor at Yale University, Prof Malhotra analysed thousands of interactions from an online dating website in the US and posed questions to users. Their findings, presented in the research paper titled Political Sorting in Social Relationships , shows political affirmation rivals level of education as criteria for a perfect match.

Participants in a follow-up lab experiment also evaluated online candidates more positively when they showed the same political ideology and level of interest in politics – as well as finding them more physically attractive.

Shared political affiliation, for example, increased messaging rates by 9.5 per cent, shared levels of political interest increased messaging rates by 10.7 per cent and shared ideas on how to balance the budget increased messaging rates by 10.8 percent.

This may be a popular method of sorting through dating profiles but the danger, according to Prof Malhotra, is that households could become echo chambers of extreme views if individuals with similar political beliefs stay together and have children.

“Children who grow up in a household where both parents have the same political beliefs tend to have more extreme views,” he says. In contrast, children with parents who have differing views are ultimately more moderate in their thinking.

For the Silicon Valley based professor, this is of particular concern when faced with a growing polarisation within US society.

“At the highest levels within our political system, we increasingly see that people are unwilling to work and communicate with each other,” he says. “America is becoming this place where there is increased choice: you choose your media, where you live, etc.” So much so, he adds, that whole neighbourhoods are becoming more homogenous and failing to relate to others.

As a way of combating this situation, he recommends budding romantics be more open to change when choosing a partner, as well as valuing diversity in the workplace as an alternative source of political debate.

For those safely ensconced in a relationship yet facing the minefield of gift-giving, meanwhile, a study from London Business School shows cost is not as important as many believe.

“Givers think the more they spend the more appropriate the gift, but for receivers there is no correlation between price and appreciation,” says Gabrielle Adams, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at LBS, who co-authored the study, titled Money can’t buy love: Asymmetric beliefs about gift price and feelings of appreciation.

Focusing on engagement rings, for example, the study asked recently engaged Americans from a popular weddings website to complete a confidential survey. Answers showed men believed the more they spent on an engagement ring, the more appreciative the receiver would be. However, female respondents were not more appreciative if the cost was more.

“We recommend finding other ways to show thoughtfulness - handmade gifts, for example,” says Prof Adams. And if choosing a ring, better to find one the receiver will like, one that is tailored to their style rather than the price.

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www.gsb.stanford.edu

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