Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction (#152)

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APA Style

Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis. Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction. (2013, March 05). Retrieved 01:20, January 20, 2018 from http://www.PsychFileDrawer.org/replication.php?attempt=MTUy

MLA Style

"Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction" Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis. 05 Mar 2013 11:51 20 Jan 2018, 01:20 <http://www.PsychFileDrawer.org/replication.php?attempt=MTUy>

MHRA Style

'Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction', Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis, , 05 March 2013 11:51 <http://www.PsychFileDrawer.org/replication.php?attempt=MTUy> [accessed 20 January 2018]

Chicago Style

"Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction", Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis, , http://www.PsychFileDrawer.org/replication.php?attempt=MTUy (accessed January 20, 2018)


Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction [Internet]. Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis; 2013 Mar 05, 11:51 [cited 2018 Jan 20]. Available from: http://www.PsychFileDrawer.org/replication.php?attempt=MTUy

Reference to Original Report of Finding Whitchruch, E.R., Wilson, T.D., & Gilbert, D.T. (2011). He loves me, he loves me not...:Uncertainty can increase romantic attraction. Psychological Science, 22(2), 172-175. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797610393745
Title Uncertainty may not increase romantic attraction
If the original article contained multiple experiments, which one did you attempt to replicate? e.g., you might respond 'Study 1' or 'Experiment 4'.
Link to PDF of Original Report
Brief Statement of Original Result Participants rated men's online profiles as more attractive when they were uncertain about how the men felt about them compared to when they received feedback that the men either liked them best or average among several profiles.
Type of Replication Attempted Fairly Direct Replication
Result Type Failure to Replicate
Difference? Not Applicable
Number of Subjects 196
Number of Subjects in Original Study 47
Year in which Replication Attempt was Made 2011
Name of Investigators (Real Names Required) Stephanie D. O'Keefe & Harry T. Reis
Detailed Description of Method/Results Whitchurch et al. found that, contrary to the reciprocity principle, uncertainty about how a potential romantic partner feels about you can increase attraction. They suggest that uncertainty can result in increased positivity since people think more about uncertain events and do not habituate as quickly. We followed up this work by testing whether anticipation of actual interaction would influence the effects. The online profiles Whitchurch et al. created were of college students from cities that were not in close proximity to the female undergraduate participants; thus there was no possibility of actual interaction. We proposed that uncertainty will only increase attraction when individuals are not expecting to meet the individuals in person.

We used the same cover story and basic study design as Whitchurch et al. to test our hypothesis. We told participants that we were interested in the effectiveness of Facebook as a medium for online dating. Prior to the lab component of the study, our female participants gave us permission to take a screenshot of the "about me" and "likes" section of their Facebook profile and were told that their profile would be viewed by male students at other universities before the lab session. When participants arrived at the lab they were told that they would view and rate four profiles of men who already rated their profile. They were also told that these men either rated their profile as one they liked best or one they liked average. Participants were told about these two conditions, but there was a third condition in which participants were told that the experimenter did not know which of these two conditions the participant was assigned to. This condition was used to create a sense of uncertainty.

We also added a proximity manipulation. While half of the participants received no additional information, the others were told there would be a follow-up lab session in which they would have face-to-face interactions with the four men from the profiles. After participants were assigned a feedback condition they were shown the four profiles and rated how attractive they found the men. Participants also completed a mood questionnaire before and after the manipulation, a manipulation check and were thoroughly debriefed. We found that we did not replicate the uncertainty and attraction effect, F(2,96)=11.71, p<.001, and that in our sample, participants who either knew they were liked best (M=.54, SD=.81) or were uncertain (M=.41, SD=.67) rated the profiles as more attractive than people who thought they were liked average (M=-.26, SD=.72), t(96)=.80, p<.001, and t(96)=.67, p<.001. There was no statistical difference in attraction between those who were liked best and those who were uncertain, t(96)=.12, p=.51. We also found an expected interaction by feedback condition interaction, F(2,196)=2.08, p<.05, revealing that when participants did not expect future contact they found the men more attractive when they were liked best or uncertain compared to when they were liked average, but this effect did not hold when participants believed they would have a future face-to-face interaction, F(1,190)=7.88, p<.01.
Any Known Methodological Differences
(between original and present study)?
In the original study, participants were given feedback about how they were rated by the men in the Facebook profiles, were shown the profiles, then completed filler tasks, the time 1 mood questionnaire, then rated how attractive they found the men in the profiles they viewed earlier in the study, then completed a time 2 mood questionnaire, and finished by reporting how often they thought about the men during the previous 15 minutes of the study. In our study, we did not assess reported thoughts and did not include unrelated filler tasks. Additionally, participants in our study completed the time 1 mood before they were assigned to their feedback condition, and then were asked to view the profiles and then rate how attractive they found the men in the profiles before completing the time 2 mood questionnaire.
Email of Investigator
Name of individuals who
actually carried out the project
The following research assistants ran subjects: Marisa Straub, Lara Antell, Catherine Nadeau, Abigail Lalone, & Kiera Anderson. Stephanie O'Keefe analyzed the data under the supervision of Harry Reis.
Location of ProjectMeliora Hall 435 and 169, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Characteristics of Subjects
(subject pool, paid, etc.)
University students from subject pool
University of Rochester
Where did these subjects reside?United States
Was this a Class Project?No
Further Details of Results as pdf
Additional Comments
Email of Original Investigator
Quantitive Information The original publication did not provide confidence intervals. In the original study, feedback influenced attraction, F(2,44)=15.06, p<.001, η²=.41. Participants were more attracted when they were liked best (M=.12, SD=.60) rather than liked average (M=-.62, SD=.71), t(44)=3.52, p=.001, and were even more attracted when they were uncertain (M=.57, SD=.44) compared to when they were liked best, t(44)=2.07, p=.04. In the current study, we found that feedback influenced attraction, F(2,96)=11.71, p<.001, and that while participants were more attracted when they were liked best (M=.54, SD=.81) rather than liked average (M=-.26, SD=.72), t(96)=.80, p<.001, 95% CI[.44, 1.15], there was no difference in attraction when participants were uncertain (M=.41, SD=.67) compared to when they were liked best, t(96)=-.12, p=.51, 95% CI[-.50, .25]. Whitchurch also found a significant main effect of condition on mood change, F(2,44)=3.86, p=.03, η²=.15, and while participants who were liked best (Mt1=16.09, SDt1=2.04; Mt2=15.24, SDt2=3.11)were in better moods than those who were liked average (Mt1=13.55, SDt1=4.25; Mt2=13.40, SDt2=4.41), t(44)=2.70, p=.01, there was not a significant difference in mood for those who were uncertain (Mt1=16.64, SDt1=3.62; Mt2=16.89, SDt2=2.97) compared to those who were liked best, t(44)=.92, p=.36. In the current study, we did not find that feedback influenced mood, F(2,95)=1.09, p=.34, η²=.02.
I have complied with ethical standards for experimentation on human beings and, if necessary, have obtained appropriate permission from an Institutional Review Board or other oversight group.
TAG: Attention TAG: JDM TAG: Language TAG: Learning TAG: Memory TAG: Perception TAG: Performance TAG: Problem Solving TAG: Social Cognition TAG: Social Psychology TAG: Thinking
(#1) By Tim Wilson on Wed 06/04/2014 12:13 pm CDT (3 years ago)
Comments from an author of the original study

Thanks for posting your interesting study. A couple of thoughts come to mind:

(1) I was interested to see that the participants in the uncertain condition liked the men as much as did participants in the "liked best" condition. True, this does not replicate our result that liking in the uncertain condition was HIGHER than in the "liked best" condition. Nonetheless, your results still suggests that there is some power to uncertainty. Logically, participants should like the men more when they are 100% certain that the men liked them the best than when they believe that there is only at 50% chance that the men liked them the best. That is what a "reciprocity effect" would predict. The fact that women liked the men equally in the "liked best" and "uncertain" conditions suggests that uncertainty may be having a positive effect, albeit not as strongly as in our study

(2) I suspect that an important (albeit unmanipulated) feature of our design was that participants completed a fairly long set of filler questionnaires before rating their attraction to the men. This allowed those in the uncertain condition to notice that thoughts about the men kept coming to mind, thereby inferring that they must like them. I'm only guessing, of course, but the fact that these filler tasks were omitted in the replication study may have been important. 

Are you posting an unpublished replication attempt that you conducted yourself, or noting a published replication attempt?

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