This paper reports on a study that identified which of 36 possible attributes of potential romantic partners were perceived as most important for selecting a romantic partner. It also quantified perceived risk and perceived attractiveness judgments for 159 partner characteristics ('aspects'). Thus, it directly investigated the partner characteristics that reflect both risk and attractiveness as well as the correlation between these two concepts. Every one of the 36 attributes were viewed as important by at least some respondents and there was wide variance in the frequency with which they were chosen. While almost 80% of the respondents felt it was important to know something about the potential partner's 'appearance', less than 4% felt it was important to know about 'accessories'. In addition to 'appearance', only 3 other attributes were selected as one of the 15 most important by at least 60% of respondents. The gamma association across aspects between average risk and average attractiveness was - 0.61, suggesting that the more one is attracted to some aspect of a potential partner, the less likely is one to view that aspect as 'risky'. This may help explain why it sometimes appears that risk information is ignored when it concerns a partner to whom one is attracted. Somewhat surprisingly, there were remarkable similarities between gender and among ethnicities with respect to both selecting attributes that are important in partner selection and in identifying both attractive and risky aspects.
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This research was supported by NIMH grant 5 R01 MH 62983-02. We thank Ina von Haeften for her contributions to the design and development of this study, Nicole Trentacoste for comments on earlier drafts, and Aram Aghazarian and Herbert Simons of the Department of Speech Commuication, Temple University, for providing space and resoures for data collection on their campus.