Cues to commitment

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Friedman, Barry, 1975-

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I put forward an evolutionary psychological model of commitment in heterosexual dating relationships. Tracking the commitment intentions of dating partners was a recurrent adaptive problem faced by human ancestors. Humans are hypothesized to possess psychological adaptations designed to perceive certain classes of information as being diagnostic of dating partners’ commitment intentions. Study 1 (N = 129) identified a large and diverse set of naturally occurring specific cues to dating partners’ commitment intentions. In Study 2 (N = 251), participants rated how diagnostic each cue was of an imagined dating partner’s interest in developing a committed and exclusive long-term romantic relationship with them. Imagined dating partners were either lower, equal, or higher in mate value than the participants. Cues rated as being most diagnostic of the presence of male and female dating partners’ commitment intentions included telling their parents they loved you, telling you they wanted children with you, and telling you things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. Cues rated as being most diagnostic of male and female dating partners’ lack of commitment intentions included not letting others know that the two of you were a couple, referring to you as a “friend,” and not wanting to introduce you to their family. Study 2 also identified which cues the sexes find to be differentially diagnostic of dating partners’ commitment intentions. The majority of cues were rated as more diagnostic of men’s than women’s commitment intentions. Exploratory factor analysis revealed six factors to commitment: Kin Oriented, Publicly Displayed Involvement, Thoughtful; Expedited Sexual Access; Avoided Publicly Displaying Involvement; Uninterested in You/Interested in Others; Future-Oriented, and Tolerated Minimal Resource Allocation. The same factors of commitment differ in diagnosticity when performed by dating partners of relatively high, low, or equal mate value compared to self.