Cristen Conger

Dating Science: Hot Dates Expect Free Dinner

The go-to dating ritual of eating together is a little odd when you think about it -- or maybe this is just my own mild eating-in-front-of-other-people anxiety talking here. Order a salad, for instance, and there's the chance of a) being pigeonholed as that type of woman who orders salads on dates and b) getting arugula stuck in your teeth for the remainder of the evening because your date is too polite to point it out, thus postponing the embarrassment until you're back home alone, starring horrified at your green-speckled smile in the bathroom mirror (not that this has happened to me or anything...). And particularly on first dates, there's the awkward moment when the check arrives. Being 2014 and all, the heteronormative assumption that the guy automatically will pick up the tab (and that we're even talking about an opposite-sex date happening in the first place) has flown out the window, and in the best-case scenario a flirtatious race to be the first one to toss down a credit card will likely ensue, at which point one person will acquiesce to the other with the promise that he or she will foot the bill for the next outing.

Unless, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, one of the people attending this hypothetical date is super hot. The researchers gather up a group of 416 adults between 20 and 35 years old and had them rate their self attractiveness, attractiveness of a potential date and their willingness to pay for a date. And not to speak ill of hotties out there, but the finer someone considered his or her face, the less they felt compelled to spend money on a date. When it came to the self-attractiveness rating, the results suggest that folks who like what they see in the mirror also think of themselves as having a higher dating market value. In other words, more men and women in the study fancied their own faces, the less willing they were to pay for this hypothetical date. The effect was slightly stronger among women, which jives with the study's finding that men also are more eager to pay for lovelier ladies anyway.

That said, across the board, study participants shied away from picking up the entire tab, with most men and women preferring to either split the cost or be paid for -- a result that was not surprisingly stronger among women than men. Another compelling pattern that also emerged was that while men's interest in paying for a date increased in proportion to his dates' attractiveness (i.e. the more beautiful the lady across the table, the greater the guy's willingness to pay), the inverse occurred for women (i.e. the studlier the dude across the table, more women wished for Mr. Handsome to pay).

modern-day dynamics