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Northwestern Love Expert Discusses Matters of Heart

Listen to Eli Finkel discuss latest trends in romantic relationships on eve of Valentine’s Day

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Trying to grasp the vagaries of romantic love has for centuries been left to the poets and philosophers.

In this edition of ‘CatChats, Northwestern University’s Eli J. Finkel shows how far scientific  inquiry has come in understanding matters of the heart -- and how far it has to go.

Dating, marriage and other romantic relationships aren’t what they used to be. Technology continues to revolutionize the ways we meet potential partners, and online dating has become a billion dollar business. Many couples are now seeking high-level emotional and psychological fulfillment in their marriages, as opposed to decades past when the institution tended to be, for many, more practical, almost transactional, in nature.

Finkel, a professor in the psychology department in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and at the Kellogg School of Management, covers these trends and more in a lively conversation based on his research on romantic attraction and relationships.

Why are we attracted to some people and not others? What is it that makes strangers click in a romantic way? What in a romantic relationship brings out the best in us rather than the worst?  Why is marriage under so much stress these days? Now that online dating has advanced so far technologically and become a way of life, does it really work?

To predict romantic attraction, for example, online dating algorithms today often focus on a couple’s similarities to predict romantic attraction, Finkel said.

“What we are discovering is a lot of the information you need to figure out whose compatible with you can’t come before you meet face to face,” he said. In other words, figuring out whether there is chemistry still depends largely on meeting face to face.

Also defying conventional wisdom, Finkel’s research suggests that playing hard to get is not the way to go when you meet that special someone who undeniably makes the sparks fly.

“If you are uniquely attracted to one person above and beyond how you are attracted to most people, that person often will be romantically attracted to you,” Finkel says his research shows.

Don’t wait, he says, “to express that interest and convey also that here is someone with standards.”

More highlights:

•  Romantic relationships are one of the biggest predictors of quality-of-life for those who have reached a reasonable standard of living.
• Quest to find a romantic partner is a huge economic force, with billions being spent on online dating, at bars, restaurants and beyond.
• Technology has completely revolutionized the way we meet partners, but not necessarily the way we interact after meeting a partner.
• Dating is increasingly mobile with smartphone applications like Tinder.
• Couples increasingly looking to marriage for help in self-discovery and personal growth.

- ‘CatChats is a series of audio podcasts that are casual conversations with people and personalities who make Northwestern one of the world’s diverse and dynamic universities.

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