Girly girls and manly men are more realistic about their dating prospectsS

One of the most important skills to have if you're looking for dates is knowing whether somebody else is interested in you. According to psychologists who studied speed dating, this is actually an incredibly difficult skill to master. But one group is almost always accurate in their predictions of who wants to date them: men and women who exhibit extremely stereotypical gender behaviors. Men looking for sex and women looking for marriage had an uncanny ability to figure out whether members of the opposite sex were interested in them.

In Psychological Science, psychology professor Mitja Back and his colleagues report that they studied several hundred participants in a German speed dating group. They asked each participant to take a psychological test aimed at assessing how "sociosexually unrestricted" the men were, and how "agreeable" the women were. In other words, they wanted to know how much the men had casual sex, and how "warm, trustworthy, and cooperative" the women were (traits associated with people who do well in long-term relationships). The researchers then correlated these results with how accurately each person could predict whether a particular speed dating partner wanted to see them again.

Though nobody scored brilliantly on this test, there was a marked difference between how well the "typical" men and women scored, versus the people who didn't conform to gender stereotypes. The researchers called the latter a group who could not accurately judge their "mate value," or attactiveness to others:

There is, however, substantial variation among individuals in the accuracy to predict one's mate value. Importantly, and in line with our hypotheses, these differences in mate value accuracy were meaningfully related to the men's and women's personality. In a nutshell, men and women were better able to judge their own mate value (and thus in a better position to reach more optimal mating decisions) when their personalities fitted the typically preferred mating tactics for their sex: Sociosexually unrestricted men were more accurate than restricted men and agreeable women were more accurate than disagreeable women.

Back and his colleagues have a few ideas why this might be the case. They suggest that people who behave in stereotypical ways may be expending less effort regulating their behavior. They're not thinking about what they're doing, but just acting in the expected way. This could mean that they're able to devote more time to figuring out what other people think of them.

Another possibility the researchers raise is that people who behave stereotypically are more attractive to the opposite sex. Therefore, they date more people, and as a result of those experiences are better able to judge when somebody is interested in them.

The study didn't show that people with stereotypical gender behavior got more dates — just that they were more realistic about who would want to see them again after a speed date.

However you look at it, this study is extremely incomplete, which the researchers themselves acknowledge. They've only studied a narrow band of the population, and have chosen to define "typically preferred mating tactics" in very simplistic ways. Probably the most interesting thing they've discovered — other than the fact that stereotypical men are cognizant of the fact that stereotypical women want to go out with them, and vice versa — is that speed dating is a great research opportunity for psychologists.

Read the full paper on Mitja Back's website, via Psychological Science