[Proposal] Playing the Field or Locking Down a Partner?: Perceptions of Available Romantic Partners and Commitment Readiness

Background and Motivation
Younger generations are increasingly remaining single and delaying marriage compared to previous generations (Wang & Parker, 2014), leading researchers to question what motivates people to seek or avoid committed romantic relationships. Although this decision is shaped by how ready they feel to enter into a committed romantic relationship (i.e., commitment readiness , Agnew et al., 2019), little is known about the factors that inform commitment readiness. Theory and research suggest that the perceived availability of potential partners may influence commitment readiness, however, such perspectives can be used to make competing predictions regarding the direction of this influence. On the one hand, perceiving many available potential partners may decrease commitment readiness given that people who perceive many potential partners should benefit from being selective to ensure they secure the most desirable partner possible (Buss & Schmitt, 1993); on the other hand, perceiving few available potential partners may decrease commitment readiness given that people may defensively decide they are not ready for a committed relationship to protect their ego from acknowledging a dearth of romantic interest from others (Kenrick et al., 1993; Leary, 2007). To this end, the goal of the current experiment is to determine whether perceiving many or few potential romantic partners decreases commitment readiness.

Method
Participants. An a priori power analysis based on previously-obtained effect sizes (d = .41) indicated that 190 people are necessary to achieve power greater than .80. Accordingly, we will recruit 190 usable participants. Given that the current study will manipulate participants’ perceptions of available romantic partners by using an online dating forum, participants will be ineligible to complete the study if they are currently involved in a romantic relationship or actively use online dating services (and thus have established beliefs about the availability of romantic partners through online services).

Procedure. To address the above research question, participants will be recruited through Prolific to complete a two-part experiment. Participants will be told that the purpose of the study is to help Match(.com), a popular online dating service, develop an improved matching algorithm that can be used to assess compatibility of potential dating partners. To this end, participants will create a dating profile that will ostensibly be evaluated by users on Match and receive false feedback about the number of people who matched with them.

For the first part of the study, participants will be asked to create a dating profile. After creating their dating profile, participants will be asked to review and indicate their romantic interest in profiles of single Match users who live near them. After reviewing the profiles, participants will be told that their profile will be shared with the people who they just evaluated and those people will indicate whether or not they would be interested in the participant as a potential romantic partner. The first part of the study is expected to take approximately 90 minutes to complete.

Approximately one week later, participants will be notified that their matches are ready to review and will be invited to complete the second part of the study. For the second part of the study, participants will be randomly assigned to one of two conditions and provided with false feedback about the number of matches that they made; their profile will not actually be evaluated by others. Given that men and women typically receive different degrees of feedback on online dating forums, this feedback will be further tailored based on the participant’s gender to enhance the believability of the number of matches made. Thus, participants in the many partners condition will be told, “On average, [men, women] match with approximately [12%, 30%] of users on our dating service. You matched with [24%, 60%] of users on our dating service”; participants in the few partners condition will be told, “On average, [men, women] match with approximately [12%, 30%] of users on our dating service. You matched with [6%, 15%] of users on our dating service.” After receiving the feedback, participants will be asked to respond to a variety of questionnaires regarding their online dating experience, as well as multiple manipulation checks to assess the effectiveness of the manipulation, the Commitment Readiness Scale (Hadden et al., 2018) to assess commitment readiness, and other variables that will be explored as potential mediators behind this causal association (e.g., fear of being single, romantic partner selectivity, self-esteem). The second part of the study is expected to take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Study Costs
The ensure the quality of our data and to support ethical payment of participants, participants will be paid £7.50/$9.50 per hour. Participants who complete the first part of the study (lasting 90 minutes) will be paid £11.25/$14.25. Although our sample size is 190 participants, based on our experience with retention in multi-part studies, we expect that approximately 20% of our sample will not complete the second part of the study. Considering this, we expect to overrecruit participants to complete the first part of the study to ensure that 190 usable participants complete the second part of the study. Thus, the cost for 230 participants (190 + ~20%) to complete the first part of the study will be £3,450/$4,370, including the service fee. Participants who complete the second part of the study (lasting 30 minutes) will be paid an additional £3.75/$4.75. The cost for 190 participants to complete the second part of the study will be £950/$1,204, including the service fee. Thus, we are requesting a total of £4,400/$5,574 for 190 usable participants to complete both portions of this study.

Preregistration and Open Science
All hypotheses, procedures, and planned analyses are registered on the Open Science Foundation (OSF). We commit to the analyses, deidentified data, and materials being made publicly available on the Open Science Foundation following the completion of the study.

References

Agnew, C.R., Hadden, B.W., & Tan, K. (2019). It’s about time: Readiness, commitment, and stability in close relationships. Social Psychological and Personality Science , 10, 1046-1055 .

Buss, D.M., & Schmitt, D.P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100 , 204-232.

Hadden, B.W., Agnew, C.R., & Tan, K. (2018). Commitment readiness and relationship formation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44 , 1242-1257.

Kenrick, D.T., Groth, G.E., Trost, M.R., & Sadalla, E.K. (1993). Integrating evolutionary and social exchange perspectives on relationships: Effects of gender, self-appraisal, and involvement level on mate selection criteria. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64 , 951-969.

Leary, M.R. (2007). Motivational and emotional aspects of the self. Annual Review of Psychology, 58 , 317-344.

Wang, W., & Parker, K. (2014). Record share of Americans have never married : As values, economics and gender patterns change . Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.