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15 November 2000
"Playing Hard To Get" Works!
by George Atkinson

The dating strategy known as "playing hard to get" may be more than silly vanity or coyness, according to research recently published by two economists. Centre College professor David Anderson teamed up with University of Kobe economist Shigeyuki Hamori for the research, which is reported in the current issue of Japan and the World Economy.

Their conclusion, according to Anderson, is that playing hard to get may be an effective way for an individual to show that he or she could be a valuable, high-quality mate. "Our dating behavior," says Anderson, "reflects the kind of 'social price' we have set for ourselves. If our personal standards and courtship demands are high, we've put a high price on ourselves. In the marketplace, it's common to assume that the more expensive products are of higher quality. Putting a high price on ourselves implies that we have a lot to offer as a potential mate."

Anderson says the marital search can be compared to the selection of a fine wine or an excellent college. "The search begins with the observation of outward appearances, while little is known about what is on the inside.

If the outward appearances are similar, it is common to assume that higher price means higher quality."

The search for a spouse begins the same way. Potential mates, who know their own inner strengths and weaknesses, intentions, self discipline, and prospects better than anyone else, set that social price for themselves.

"If two potential mates display similar observable traits, but one exhibits a higher social price than the other, the searcher is likely to select the marital candidate with the higher (yet affordable) standards," Anderson says.

"I believe that this theory applies to people across the globe," states Hamori. "Explicit dowries are no longer popular in most cultures, but we all charge and accept payments in terms of time, respect, affection, devotion, and so on. Prices have been and always will be an important indicator of quality."

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