This study, with a sample (N = 735) of both university students and non-student adults, examined the various strategies that men and women believe they would use to initiate romantic contact with an attractive other in four different settings: social gathering, bar/nightclub, class/workplace, and Facebook. We found that men to a greater degree than women reported they would use direct approaches (e.g., initiate a conversation) and women to a greater degree than men reported they would use the indirect strategy of having a friend introduce them and the passive strategy of waiting for the other to do something. Men’s greater expectation of being direct in relationship initiation (relative to women) was found across the settings. Shyness was associated with the lower likelihood of expecting to be direct in initiation strategies, although the strength of the association was stronger for men than for women and depended on both the particular initiation strategy and the setting. The findings offer insights into the dynamics of relationship development and how plans for initiation strategies may differ for men and women, including the differential influence of shyness on romantic initiation for men and women.
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This sample size was after eliminating 62 participants who had not completed the end of the survey that included the measures for this study. We also eliminated 12 participants who failed one or both of the two attention checks included in the online survey, one participant who indicated an age under 18, and one MTurk respondent from the Philippines. For more detail on these data deletions, request a supplementary file from the first author. We did not perform an a-priori power analysis to determine sample size. Still, our sample exceeded the minimum power criterion for detecting correlation coefficients, which Schönbrodt and Perugini (2013) suggested to be 250. Post-hoc estimations of statistical power further revealed that we had sufficient power to detect both within- and between-subjects main effects as well as their interaction at β > .99.
It was difficult to make the Facebook scenario comparable to the face-to-face settings, in terms of emphasizing that an attractive person who the participant had noticed previously had arrived in the setting. Our decision was to present the attractive person as having sent a friend request.
Our decision was to include only six items (from the longer 13-item scale) primarily because of concern over the length of the survey (which included measures on many topics) and potential participant fatigue. We chose the first six items listed in the scale. The items chosen had good psychometric properties in our data; item-to-total correlations ranged from .65 to .84, with a mean of .77. Other evidence also indicates that these particular items have good psychometric properties (e.g., Crozier 2005; Hopko et al. 2005).
Cronbach’s alpha ranged from .61 to .74; see Table 2.
A four-category variable was created for source of data collection as a control variable (1 = those from the university; 2 = those obtained through Facebook; 3 = those from MTurk, and 4 = Other).
One of the items unique to the Facebook setting was “accept the friend request.” Participants said they were very likely to do this behavior (M = 6.05, SD = 1.58), and no differences emerged between men (M = 5.94, SD = 1.53) and women (M = 6.11, SD = 1.61), t (729) = 1.44, p = .149, d = 0.11). Furthermore, shyness was not associated with the likelihood of accepting the friend request, r = −.04, p = .227. The correlations for men and women, respectively, were r = −.07, p = .241; and r = −.03, p = .522.
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The authors would like to thank Samuel S. Fisher for his assistance with the data.
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Sprecher, S., Treger, S. & Landa, N. Men and women’s plans for romantic initiation strategies across four settings. Curr Psychol 40, 3499–3509 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00298-7