Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner says a new study

Be kind to find love: Those seeking a partner would look for kindness over good looks and money, study finds

  • Swansea University team surveyed over 2,700 college students globally 
  • They gave them a budget to spend on different mate attributes
  • People typically spent 22-26 per cent of their total budget on kindness 
  • Only 10 per cent of the budget was spent on traits like creativity and chastity 

One of the top qualities that we look for in a long-term partner is kindness, according to new research by Swansea University conducted on over 2,700 college students from across the globe.

While traits like physical attractiveness and financial prospects were important, the one that was given the highest priority was kindness, says their paper published in the Journal of Personality.

The study compared the dating preferences of students from Eastern countries, for example Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and Western countries such as the UK, Norway and Australia.

Students were given eight attributes they could spend ‘mate dollars’ on: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humour, chastity, religiosity, the desire for children, and creativity.

People typically spent 22-26 per cent of their total budget on kindness, and large parts of their budget on physical attractiveness and good financial prospects, while traits like creativity and chastity received less than 10 per cent.

The study compared the dating preferences of students from Eastern countries, for example Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and Western countries such as the UK, Norway and Australia

People typically spent 22-26 per cent of their total ‘mate budget’ on kindness, and large parts of their budget on physical attractiveness and good financial prospects, while traits like creativity and chastity received less than 10 per cent

The science of love is somewhat of a mystery to many, but scientists have attempted to scientifically define the phenomena.

Many studies from various different institutions has found that there are certain neurological and biochemical clues that come with falling in love.

Numerous brain regions, particularly those associated with reward and motivation, are activated by the thought or presence of a partner.

These include the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and anterior cingulated cortex regions of the brain.

It is thought that by firing up these areas of the brain, it can help to lower a person’s walls.

These areas, when activated, serve to inhibit defensive behaviour, reduce anxiety and increase trust in a new romantic partner.

Biochemical responses to love include oxytocin and vasopressin which are produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituaitary gland.

This gland is associated with many chemicals which have a range of functions in the human body.

These chemicals serve to increase the most intense stages of love.

They can also stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, a chemical associated with happiness.

 

While there were some differences in behaviour between Eastern and Western students – there were also some remarkable similarities.

The research team also found some interesting sex differences – both Eastern and Western men allocated more of their budget to physical attractiveness than women (22 per cent vs 16 per cent) while women allocated more to good financial prospects than men (18 per cent vs 12 per cent).

‘Looking at very different culture groups allows us to test the idea that some behaviours are human universals,’ says the principle researcher Andrew G. Thomas.

‘If men and women act in a similar way across the globe, then this adds weight to the idea that some behaviours develop in spite of culture rather than because of it.’

The results also showed a difference in a partner’s desire for children, which was a priority only for Western women.

‘We think this may have something to do with family planning,’ said Thomas. 

‘In cultures where contraception is widespread, a partner’s desire for children may predict the likelihood of starting a family.

‘In contrast, in cultures where contraception use is less widespread, having children may be a natural consequence of sex within a relationship, making actual desire for children less relevant.’

‘Looking at very different culture groups allows us to test the idea that some behaviours are human universals,’ says the principle researcher Andrew G. Thomas. ‘If men and women act in a similar way across the globe, then this adds weight to the idea that some behaviours develop in spite of culture rather than because of it’

WHAT ARE THE FIVE STAGES OF A RELATIONSHIP AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE BODY?

Psychologists suggest there are five stages of love – butterflies, building, assimilation, honesty and stability.

Each of these stages has a different impact on our psyche and health, researchers at eHarmony found in a 2014 survey.

1) Butterflies

Marked by intense infatuation and sexual attraction, symptoms noted by couples included weight loss (30 per cent) and a lack of productivity (39 per cent).

Biologically, it’s reported that during this early stage of dating, both men and women create more of the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. 

As a result more than half – 56 per cent – noted an increase in their libido.

Psychologists suggest there are five stages of love – butterflies, building, assimilation, honesty and stability

2) Building

As the initial attraction gives way to learning more about one another, the honeymoon stage subsides and a couple begin to build their relationship.

eHarmony’s study estimated around three per cent of Britons in relationship are currently at stage two. 

The body releases neurochemicals called monoamines, which speed up heart rate, trigger rushes of intense pleasure and replicate the effects of Class A drugs. 

The biological effect culminates in a feeling of ‘happy anxiety’, where people can think of little else than their blossoming relationship. 

Forty-four per cent of the study participants noted a lack of sleep while 29 per cent reported a their attention span had been adversely affected.

3) Assimilation

Having established whether the other person is ‘right’, stage three forces a couple to question whether the ‘relationship’ itself is right. 

Questions over the future of the union and forming boundaries in the relationship can lead to a rise in stress levels, reported by 27 per cent of those taking part in the study. 

Each of the five stages of a relationship has a different impact on our psyche and health, researchers at eHarmony found in a 2014 survey (stock image)

4) Honesty

Stage three combines with stage four, where people open up showing the ‘real you’ sees the first real rise in stress levels and anxiety.

‘This stage deals with the concept behind how we all put on our best faces, through social media we edit our lives as well as our pictures to make it appear as though everything is fine,’ psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who assisted with the study, told MailOnline.

Opening up completely triggered feelings of doubt and increased vulnerability in 15 per cent of participants.  

5) Stability

If a couple can weather the emotional rollercoaster of the first four stages, the fifth and final stage, stability, brings with it increased levels of trust and intimacy.

eHarmony found 50 per cent of respondents had reached this stage, and 23 per cent reported feeling happier as a result.

Biologically, vasopressin – a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm – strengthens feelings of attachment.

Meanwhile oxytocin – released during childbirth – deepens feelings of attachment.  

‘This is where we see a real level of contentness,’ Dr Papadopolous told MailOnline.

‘We found the body releases wonderful hormones which helps couples bond. We noted a real sense of attachment, and a sense of “you have got my back and I’ve got yours”.’

 

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