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Source: kovop58/Shutterstock

It is often said that there is 'someone for everyone’, just like in the title of the great recent song by Jamie Lawson.  However, believing that there is someone for everyone implies that there is actually ‘a one’ for all of us.  But is there any truth in this, and is there really someone out there for everyone?  If so, how do we know when we’ve met the special someone for us, and that they are ‘the one’?  It is not as if the one for us wears a badge informing us that they are, therefore our choices should be informed by sound judgement and careful decision making.

Deciding on someone

When we meet someone and start dating, we naturally evaluate how much we might actually like them, and whether we are aware of this or not, we may use a particular decision making strategy. Do we decide we like them (and maybe they are ‘the one’) because they meet some basic criteria of what we may be looking for in a partner, or do we judge them, but think there may still be someone ‘better’ for us out there?  The first of these strategies is called satisfising (deciding we like them and that they are the one for us, because they meet the basics of what we are looking for).  The second strategy is called maximizing (always attempting to find someone better) (Simon, 1956). 

Mistakes and errors

However, there is a danger with employing each of the two strategies outlined above.  In reaching our decision that we have found ‘the one’, how do we know we are right?  When attempting to choose the ‘someone’ we think will be our long term partner, we may make an error in one of two ways. 

In understanding this we need to take a visit to statistical hypothesis testing, where two types of error exist known as type one and type two errors.  A type one error is a false positive error, meaning that we accept something as true or accept an effect as true when it is not.  A type two error is failing to accept something as true or failing to detect an effect where it does exists.  If we apply this to choosing the right long term partner, we make a type one error if we believe that someone is ‘the one’, when they turn out not to be, whereas we make a type two error if we pass on everybody, believing we have yet to find ‘the one’. 

Each error has a real life consequence.  If we satisfice, we may make a type one error, because being too lenient in our mate choice, we may in the long run discover that we have accepted the wrong person for us.  Alternatively, if we maximize, we risk the chance of making a type two error, because we keep judging that nobody we meet is really ‘the one’ with the possibility of ending up alone.

Our dilemma is to some extent exacerbated  possibly by the limited amount of time we have to find a romantic partner, and the older we get, then it is maybe more likely that we will satisfice.

How long will it take?

Is there even such a thing as love at first sight?  If not, then once we meet and start dating someone, how long do we actually take to decide whether they are the one for us? 

In answer to the first question, men are more likely than women to fall in love at first sight.  Men are more easily and rapidly attracted simply by physical appearance, which takes little time to assess.  The evolutionary psychology explanation for this is that physical appearance signals health and reproductive viability.   Women on the other hand rely on numerous other factors in judging a male,  for example humour, (Grammer & Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1990), voice (Anolli & Ciceri, 2002), or scent (Santos et al, 2005), as well as qualities such as wealth, ambition and earning potential.  Therefore the qualities that females generally seek in a long term partner take more time to assess, meaning that love at first sight is less likely for females.

The good news is that even if we don’t fall in love immediately, other factors in romantic attraction such as familiarity (repeated contact) and similarity (being like someone else) also play a part in our whether we like someone or not.  In other words the more we see somebody and the more similar they are to us, then the more likely it is we will like them and them us.

So, referring back to the question ‘is there someone for everyone’?  As long as we are prepared to make careful judgments, and not be unrealistic in our romantic beliefs then there possibly is.  Keep listening to the song.

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References

  • Anolli, L & Ciceri, R. (2002) Analysis of the Vocal Profiles of Male Seduction: From Exhibition to Self-Disclosure’ The Journal of General Psychology, 129(2), 149-169.
  • Grammer, K., & Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1990). The ritualisation of laughter. In W. Koch (Ed.), Naturalichkeit der sprache un der kulture: Acta colloquii, (pp. 192–214). Bochum7 Brockmeyer.
  • Santos P.S.C, Schinemann J.A, Gabardo J, & Bicalho M.D. (2005) ‘New evidence that the MHC influences odor perception in humans: a study with 58 Southern Brazilian students. Hormones and Behaviour. 47, 384–388.
  • Simon, H. A. (1956) Rational Choices and the Structure of the environment.  Psychological Review, 63(2), 129-138.

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