The comments there take care of the clear problems with the research pretty quickly: the people who went to college in the 30's are not the same slice of America as they are now; this study is not about who college students prefer as mates, but who they say they prefer (which we will come back to); the words used as descriptors have different connotations now; college students in 1930 were expecting to marry in the next few years, that is no longer true in 2009.
Still, the study is interesting, and revealing. From the study:
For women of the 1930s, emotional stability, dependable character and ambition ranked as the top three characteristics they wanted in a man. Attraction and love didn't come in until No. 5. Today, women, like men, put love at the top of the list, with dependability and emotional stability rounding out the top three characteristics in Mr. Right.From FuturePundit's commentary:
Women rate desire for home and children much higher in importance than men do. In 2008, women rated desire for home and children fourth men ranked it ninth.
Women ranked "pleasing disposition" as significantly less important in 2008 than they have ever before. Pleasing disposition -- presumably interpreted to mean being a nice guy -- fell from a steady ranking of No. 4 throughout the second half of the 20th Century to a significantly lower rank of No. 7 in 2008.
Strip away tradition. Strip away religious beliefs. What happens? Men and women are looking at each other in ways that seem even more influenced by their evolutionary heritage. The mating market looks like it is becoming more competitive.Observations:
1. What young people say they are looking for and who they do eventually marry has a large disconnect. Women are particularly susceptible to this. Not the women who comment here, of course, but those other women, notoriously misunderstand themselves and their attractions. This is one reason why I will never lead marriage and dating discussions with youth groups. I would lose my temper.
2. The word chastity, even more than virginity, carries a connotation of frigidity now that I don't think it did in the 30's. That changes the question. That sex in college is more common now is more than likely, chastity thus suggests an unattractive militancy. I am not sure that the value itself is undervalued as much as the study suggests. If we changed the requirements according to changed norms, then I think "2 or fewer sexual partners" might still score pretty high. "Pleasing disposition"(Nice Guy) may also have changed.
3. FP's idea that we are more like our primitive ancestors in our selection now because tradition and religion are less prominent deciding factors strikes me as suspect. We have in some ways moved toward primitive norms, moved away in others. There is some discussion of this in the comments.