Bad romance? Good romance? Uncertainty is attractive, says UVA study


Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a story about the psychology of attraction. Let’s call it: "There’s a 50 Percent Chance He’s Not That Into You. Isn’t That Appealing?"

Two UVA psychologists rounded up roughly four dozen female students, split them into groups, and showed them Facebook profiles for a handful of fictional male students. The women in groups one and two were told that the men found them attractive and average, respectively; in turn, they demonstrated reciprocal feelings.

The women in group three, the "uncertainty group," were told that the men either found them attractive or average. According to the study, those women spent more time thinking about their fictional male counterparts, and were more attracted to them than those women who were told they were found attractive with complete certainty.

"The women spent more time musing about the uncertain men than the others, suggesting that having a man in one’s thoughts can increase attractiveness," writes Wray Herbert for the Association for Psychological Science. "These women—the ones contemplating a mystery man—were also in a better mood than the women who had been flattered or deflated."

For those of you who feel that uncertainty is cause for dismissal rather than pursuit, here’s another Facebook-related romance study: a year-long study of peak break-up times, by David McCandless.