Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Policy Implications Can Be Learned From Speed Dating?

In speed dating, it turns out that the party that sits is more selective while the party that rotates is more aggressive. From the Scientific Fundamentalist:

What they discovered was truly astonishing. In the traditional “men rotate, women sit” arrangement, men were significantly less selective in their mate choice; they checked “yes” for a larger number of women than women did for men, and they experienced greater sexual attraction and romantic chemistry with the women than women did with men. This is not at all surprising, as it is what evolutionary psychology would predict and it is what we normally observe in real life (less selective, more aggressive men, and choosier and more coy women). In sharp contrast, in the novel “women rotate, men sit” arrangement, women were just as aggressive and, as a result, less selective, as men were in their mate choice; they checked as many “yeses” for men as men did for women, and they experienced as much sexual attraction and romantic chemistry for the men as men did for women.

Finkel and Eastwick explain the reversal of the pattern with their embodied cognition hypothesis. Research on embodied cognition has uncovered some pretty interesting (if wholly mysterious) findings. For example, seated experimental subjects who place their palms on the bottom of a table and press up (a gesture associated with approach) rate neutral Chinese ideographs as more appealing than those who place their palms on the top of the table and press down (a gesture associated with avoidance). In other words, because they view the ideographs while they are engaged in the approaching gesture, they come to view them more positively.
In lobbying, I think it would be most appropriate to think of politicians as being those who remain seated in a speed dating game. At least part of a congressman's face time is spent with lobbyists that actively seek them out. If this speed dating study carries external validity, then politicians are more selective with extra-aggressive special interest groups than they would be otherwise.

For Fun: Suppose we could reverse the setting, and congressmen were required to attend something resembling a job fair, with prospective lobbyists instead of prospective employers. As a result politicians become more aggressive and special interests become more selective.

What are the consequences of this kind of institutional change? How do politicians manifest this "aggressiveness"? Better policy? More exploitative policy? Do the matches between politicians and lobbyists become more efficient (think Chicago School of Public Choice)? Is it just a transfer of surplus from politicians to lobbyists?

1 comment:

Julien Couvreur said...

Aside from the Chinese ideogram experiment, it seems that the initial result is not much of a result. It is easy to imagine that men rotate because they are in a more competitive situation in the first place, rather than the reverse...