An Experimental Study of Women's Internet Personal Ads

Abstract

Personal ads are a potentially rich source of information on relationships, particularly mating strategies. Most research on personal ads has been limited to content analyses of naturally occurring ads. In this study, four “female seeking male” ads were placed on two large Internet bulletin boards specializing in such ads. The four ads, differing primarily in a few key words representing the manipulated independent variable, garnered over 500 e-mail responses in 6 weeks. Contrary to prior research and to our prediction, the most popular ad was one in which the woman described herself as “financially independent...; successful [and] ambitious,” producing over 50% more responses than the next most popular ad, one in which the woman described herself as “lovely...; very attractive and slim.” A content analysis of responses to the ads revealed that information provided varied as a function of the ad they were answering.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Bereczkei, T., Voros, S., Gal, A., & Bernath, L. (1997). Resources, attractiveness, family commitment: Reproductive decisions in human mate choice. Ethology, 103, 681­699.­

    Google Scholar 

  2. Baize, H. R., & Schroeder, J. E. (1995). Personality and mate selection in personal ads: Evolutionary preferences in a public mate selection process. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 10, 517­536.­

    Google Scholar 

  3. Binik, Y. M. (2001). Sexuality and the Internet: Lots of hyp(otheses)—only a little data. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 281­282.­

    Google Scholar 

  4. Buss, D. M. (1985). Human mate selection. American Scientist, 73, 47­51.­

    Google Scholar 

  5. Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate selection: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1­49.­

    Google Scholar 

  6. Buss, D. M. (1994). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.­

    Google Scholar 

  7. Buss, D. M., & Barnes, M. (1986). Preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 559­570.­

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cicerello, A., & Sheehan, E. P. (1995). Personal advertisements: A content analysis. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10, 751­756.­

    Google Scholar 

  9. Davis, S. (1990). Men as success objects and women as sex objects: A study of personal advertisements. Sex Roles, 23, 43­50.­

    Google Scholar 

  10. Deaux, K., & Hanna, R. (1984). Courtship in the personals column: The influence of gender and sexual orientation. Sex Roles, 11, 363­375.­

    Google Scholar 

  11. Feingold, A. (1990). Gender differences in physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 981­993­

    Google Scholar 

  12. Feingold, A. (1992). Gender differences in mate selection preferences: A test of the parental investment model. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 125­139.­

    Google Scholar 

  13. Goode, E. (1996). Gender and courtship entitlement: Responses to personal ads. Sex Roles, 34, 144­169.­

    Google Scholar 

  14. Greenlees, I. A., & McGrew, W. C. (1994). Sex and age differences in preferences and tactics of mate attraction: Analysis of published advertisements. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15, 59­72.­

    Google Scholar 

  15. Harrison, A. A., & Saeed, L. (1977). Let's make a deal: An analysis of revelations and stipulations in lonely hearts advertisements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 257­264.­

    Google Scholar 

  16. Koestner, R., & Wheeler, L. (1988). Self­presentation in personal advertisements: The influence of implicit notions of attraction and role expectations. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 5, 149­160.­

    Google Scholar 

  17. Lance, L. M. (1998). Gender differences in heterosexual dating: A content analysis of personal ads. Journal of Men's Studies, 6, 297­305.­

    Google Scholar 

  18. Lynn, M., & Shurgot, B. A. (1984). Responses to lonely hearts advertisements: Effects of reported physical attractiveness, physique, and coloration. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10, 349­357.­

    Google Scholar 

  19. Lynn, M., & Bolig, R. (1985). Personal advertisements: Sources of data about relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2, 377­383.­

    Google Scholar 

  20. Matthews, T. D. (1999). A World­Wide Web­based research project. The Teaching of Psychology, 26, 227­230.­

    Google Scholar 

  21. Okami, P., & Shakelford, T. K. (2001). Human sex differences in sexual psychology and behavior. Annual Review of Sex Research, 12, 186­241.­

    Google Scholar 

  22. Sitton, S., & Blanchard, S. (1995). Men's preferences in romantic partners: Obesity vs addiction. Psychological Reports, 77, 1185­1186.­

    Google Scholar 

  23. Smith, J. E., Waldorf, V. A., & Trembath, D. L. (1990). “Single white male looking for thin, very attractive...” Sex Roles, 23, 675­685.­

    Google Scholar 

  24. Symons, D. (1979). Evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.­

    Google Scholar 

  25. Symons, D. (1990). Adaptiveness and adaptation. Ethology and Sociobiology, 11, 427­444.­

    Google Scholar 

  26. Thiessen, D., Young, R. K., & Burroughs, R. (1993). Lonely hearts advertisements reflect sexually dimorphic mating strategies. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14, 209­229.­

    Google Scholar 

  27. Townsend, J. M. (1989). Mate­selection criteria: A pilot study. Ethology and Sociobiology, 10, 241­253.­

    Google Scholar 

  28. Townsend, J. M., & Levy, G. D. (1990). Effects of partners' physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status on sexuality and partner selection. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19, 149­164.­

    Google Scholar 

  29. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871–1971 (pp. 136­179). Chicago, IL: Aldine.­

    Google Scholar 

  30. Wiederman, M. W., & Allgeier, E. R. (1992). Gender differences in mate selection criteria: Sociobiological or socioeconomic explanation. Ethology and Sociobiology, 13, 115­124.­ ­

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Donald S. Strassberg.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Strassberg, D.S., Holty, S. An Experimental Study of Women's Internet Personal Ads. Arch Sex Behav 32, 253–260 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023465601718

Download citation

  • personal ads
  • Internet dating
  • interpersonal attraction