Sunday, February 13, 2011


Relationships, of the romantic variety, are something in which I am quite interested, albeit from a theoretical perspective most of the time. However, in my interest, I have run across some interesting information. Right before Valentines day, that celebration of the romantically entwined, I feel it is appropriate to share these factoids with you.

Both of these came to my attention thanks to Facebook links to the article, or a related article, so I must thank my ever interesting friends for their contributions. The first article, which comes from Psychology Today, explains that mystery seems more alluring than straightforward commitment. To paraphrase the article, a study of female undergraduates concluded that, while participants liked men who liked them more than those who were indifferent, they liked those whose feelings were unknown more than either category. In another interesting article, Ok Cupid member responses were analyzed to find questions that people felt comfortable answering, but which corresponded to data that is not "first date material." For example, whether a person prefers other people to be simple or complex, a light question, seems to have a strong correlation with how liberal/conservative that person is, a heavy subject.

Now that I have shown you a few psychological tricks to manipulate your relationships, let me encourage you not to use them. "Huh?" you might be thinking. Let me point out that I describe these results as providing ways to manipulate your relationships. As I have talked about in my post on Kant, the center of his ethical thought was the imperative (command) that we acknowledge that every person is the protagonist of their own personal story. To use his terms, we ought treat them as an ends in themselves, rather than just a means. This is quite similar to the "Golden Rule," that we ought do unto others as we want done unto us, and to my point in yesterday's post about every person carrying their own personal reality with them. I consider this post part two of my discussion of Kant, because my main point is to encourage you to treat others, but most importantly significant others, in a way that is respectful of their humanity.

Suppose you were on a first date, and your date asks you, "am I getting into your pants tonight?" I would find such a forward question off-putting, if not offensive. Now, suppose you were asked, "do you like the taste of beer?" No big deal, eh? However, suppose you were asked the second question, but what your date meant, and indeed how your date interprets your answer, is as though you answered the first. Feeling used yet?

So, don't use people. Whether the ends justify the means in general situations is a tricky question, but in a romantic setting your partner should be the ends, so manipulating them makes even less ethical sense than usual. When courting, one's means should be commensurate (in keeping with) to the ends, not requiring justification by the ends. Now go out, treat your romantic partner as though she or he is the most important person on this special day, have a happy Valentine's Day, and, for goodness sake, don't use your romantic partner for your own purposes!

PS The correlations these studies reveal are really cool, and interesting to study for their own sakes. But they are also a good segue into according your significant other the respect that he or she ought have. No evil social scientists please.

PPS Ironically, my post on Kant is the post that receives the most comments by SpamBots. Too bad the people who use them don't actually read the post.

No comments: