Do Single Women Seek Attached Men?

Tierney.new.75John Tierney in the NYT blog Tierney Lab:

To investigate [the hypothesis], the researchers quizzed male and female undergraduates — some involved in romantic relationships, some unattached — about their ideal romantic partner.

Next, each of the experimental subjects was told that he or she had been matched by a computer with a like-minded partner, and each was shown a photo of an attractive person of the opposite sex. (All the women saw the same photo, as did all the men.) Half of the subjects were told that their match was already romantically involved with someone else, while the other half were told that their match was unattached. Then the subjects were all asked how interested they were in their match.

To the men in the experiment, and to the women who were already in relationships, it didn’t make a significant difference whether their match was single or attached. But single women showed a distinct preference for mate poaching. When the man was described as unattached, 59 percent of the single women were interested in pursuing him. When that same man was described as being in a committed relationship, 90 percent were interested. The researchers write:

According to a recent poll, most women who engage in mate poaching do not think the attached status of the target played a role in their poaching decision, but our study shows this belief to be false. Single women in this study were significantly more interested in the target when he was attached. This may be because an attached man has demonstrated his ability to commit and in some ways his qualities have already been ‘‘pre-screened” by another woman.

I’m probably missing something, but wouldn’t a successful poach indicate that the man’s commitment was less than credible?

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