Saturday, January 14, 2012

Agreeableness and marital status among men

According to the Game theory of male/female relations (correct me if I'm wrong), women tend to control whether a relationship is made or continued, and her decision depends on the guy's alpha-ness. She won't want to be in a relationship if the guy is too agreeable. If this is so, I would expect disagreeable men to be more likely than cooperative men to be married. The MIDUS study measured Big Five personality traits and asked about marital status. I dichotmized this variable into married (1) and not married (0).  I looked at the relationship between the agreeableness scale and being married, and included age in the model as a control:


Logistic regression coefficients (sample = 1,788)

Age .01*
Agreeableness -.04

*statistically significant


Older men are more likely to be married, but being an agreeable guy doesn't hurt one's chance of marriage at all.

I suspect that the Game perspective is flawed by oversimplifying. As we learn from evolutionary psychology, women tend to look at men from two different perspectives: as short-term and long-term partners. They tend to be more attracted to the Alpha for short-term relationships but focus more on the Beta for marriage. Betas are at a disadvantage if they just want to get laid, but their cooperativeness does not appear to keep them out of long-term relationships. (Nor are they more likely to lose a wife through separation and divorce: the mean agreeableness scores for married, separated, and divorced men do not differ.)

9 comments:

chris said...

“According to the Game theory of male/female relations (correct me if I'm wrong), women tend to control whether a relationship is made or continued, and her decision depends on the guy's alpha-ness. She won't want to be in a relationship if the guy is too agreeable. If this is so, I would expect disagreeable men to be more likely than cooperative men to be married.”

Actually I think the reasoning in “Game” is, women control sex, men control commitment, and the two exchange what they control in order to get what the other has.

More specifically according to “Game” reasoning, women value men for their commitment and men value women for their sex. Men try to maximise sex and minimise commitment and women tend to maximise commitment and minimise sex. Hence what you get is essentially a sexual “marketplace”.

Therefore according to this model I’ve outlined, if women prefer alpha males, then the alpha males would be those who get the most sex while having to commit the least and the beta males would be those who are forced to give the most commitment and get the least sex (the beta males would be forced to do this due to a weaker bargaining position due to their betaness).

Now, if alpha males are more disagreeable then disagreeability should correlate with this situation. So I would guess you should measure disagreeability and number of (reported) sex partners to get a better idea of alphaness per the “Game” theory I’ve outlined above.


Mind you though, I do agree that the “Gamers” do tend to oversimplify things. But the way I look at it is this:

Alpha male=High mate-value male.

Beta male=Low mate-value male.

LTMS=Long-term mating strategy.

STMS=Short-term mating strategy.

(With mate-value for men being determined by some combination of looks, wealth and strength. And with women placing less emphasis on wealth in STMS’ than in LTMS’).

A man can be an alpha and desire to pursue a LTMS and a man can be a beta and desire to pursue a STMS. But naturally the alpha will be more successful at whatever strategy he pursues than the beta.

Although, given the current culture/environment in the West, the ability of women to exploit and take advantage of men who pursue LTMS’ is likely to act as a disincentive to men who would pursue a LTMS whether they be alpha or beta.

This disincentivisation has a lot to do with (proper) game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma.


Women are now, through the Courts and the State, given the ability to defect from their marriage/LTMS agreements to their (reproductive) advantage and their husband's (reproductive) disadvantage, while men have no such option (technically they do but it is one that the Courts and State have significantly mediated.)

Jeffrey Horn said...

Nice find. It'd be even better if the data were cross-linked to spouse responses. The game-theory explanation is very general, so it glosses over details that might be important on the margin.

Relationships involve a lot of negotiation. If women are more agreeable than men on average, mightn't they "reach further" to resolve disagreements? Likewise, two disagreeable persons might have a difficult time making marriage work.

Black Sea said...

" . . . women tend to look at men from two different perspectives: as short-term and long-term partners. They tend to be more attracted to the Alpha for short-term relationships but focus more on the Beta for marriage."


One thing I observed when most of my friends started getting married, usually in their early 30s, was that the women they married were almost invariably not the most physically attractive women they had been involved with. I wonder if a similar "short-term versus long-term" dynamic is at play in men's selections. A beautiful, but difficult, woman might well be worth the trouble for a few months, but not for a lifetime.

I also wonder how subconscious these distinctions might be. For example, the difference in attractiveness between a cute 20 year old and a beautiful 20 year old may be profound, but 15 years later, insignificant. Yet do we really consciously process these consderations when selecting a long-term mate. Nevertheless, they may exercise some influence.

Anonymous said...

Comments:

1) Disagreeable men might not be married because they have other options, rather than because women don't prefer them.

2) Agreeableness has both a politeness (or moral duty) and an empathy component, although they are correlated (which is why they make sense as a trait).

It would be interesting to see if either of these had more or less of a connection to marriage, although I guess the MIDUS data do not extend to these subfacets.

3) Likewise, Extraversion includes Dominance and Warmth (these aspects I think have correlations with Agreeableness but aren't the same thing). It would be interesting to see if Dominance had more of a correlation with relationships than Warmth.

SFG said...

Remember that Roissy's 'game' is specifically aimed at guys who want to get laid--ie the STMS. The problem of course is that even a LTMS isn't safe anymore because of the threat of being divorced and having her run off with half the dough.

This risk significantly decreases with an ugly woman because they have fewer chances to do so (hence Chris' observation). If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life... ;)

Anonymous said...

more attracted to the Alpha for short-term relationships but focus more on the Beta for marriage



I always find this whole "alpha-beta" construct to be silly and annoying. And to muddle things rather than to clarify them.

What both men and women look for in a partner for "casual sex" is different from what they look for in a spouse. In neither case is the sort of person preferred as a casual sex partner properly described as an "alpha".

Anonymous said...

Alpha male=High mate-value male


And yet, women show no particular desire to be the mate of these supposedly "high mate value males".

I'm assuming that you're using "mate" in the sense of "long term sex partner" and not "somebody you had a nights sex with once".

Anonymous said...

According to the Game theory of male/female relations (correct me if I'm wrong), women tend to control whether a relationship is made or continued



That's just one of the many reasons why I think that Game is bunk. It does not accurately describe relations between the sexes among humans.

Anonymous said...

More specifically according to “Game” reasoning, women value men for their commitment and men value women for their sex.



I question whether the "Game" boys have ever known any women. I've had plenty of sex with women where all they were looking for was sex. In fact your claim implies that the most desirable characteristic of an "alpha" from a womans point of view is that he has a greater willingness to give commitment. And presumably women won't sleep with the hapless "betas" because of their refusal to commit!