This study surveyed a sample of personal ad writers to examine the role that consumer activities play in presenting the self and attracting a potential mate.Research on mate selection involves a myriad of theoretical approaches, ranging from genetic theories to Jungian psychology.Therefore an evolutionary approach does not tell the whole story. Barkow (1980) suggests that social (and presumably consumer) behavior can be explained by at least four different levels of analysis: physiological, individual differences, culture, and evolution (see also Tooby and Cosmides, 1989).These levels should be complementary, but they are not necessarily derivable from each other.Talk shows such as Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue, as well as news shows like 20/20 (Pfifferling 1989), seem to have an endless fascination with these services.
This social process is frequently referred to as the "marriage market." Due to the important role that exchange plays in the courtship process, many academics from disciplines traditionally concerned with the world of commerce have turned their attention to dating and mate selection.Over the same period, singles ads, once the exclusive domain of off-beat publications, have become an established feature in most major newspapers and many magazines such an the New York Review of Books.Movies, like Crossing Delancy and Sea of love, along with television shows like Thirty Something, all incorporate these new introduction techniques into their story lines.This does not imply, however, that individuals are consciously attempting to maximize their ability to produce viable offspring.Furthermore, culture has reinforced male and female evolutionary preferences through institutions such as marriage and more recently the media.In some cases, researchers have used these services as a convenient vehicle to investigate basic questions about mate selection (Curran 1972, 1973a, 1973b, Curran and Lippold 1975, Woll and Cozby 1987, and Woll and Young 1989), whereas other researchers have sought a better understanding of this phenomenon in its own right (Adelman 1987, Bolig, Stein, and Mc Kenry 1984, Cameron, Oskamp and Williams 1977, Godwin 1973, Jedlicka 1981, and Woll 1986).This paper presents two examples of research involving formal social intermediaries, one from each of these two categories. The process by which single men and women meet and agree to marry can readily be seen as a market phenomenon in which both material and psychological benefits are exchanged in the process of forming and formalizing ongoing relationships. Schroeder (1991) ,"Two Views of Consumption in Mating and Dating", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Endless types of markets are available for analysis, yet few are as consequential as those that facilitate finding a lifelong partner.This study draws on three diverse, yet complementary research areas: self-presentation; possessions as symbols; and an evolutionary approach to mate selection and parental investment.The evolutionary framework offers the chance to understand consumer behavior as an extension of behavior patterns established long before the age of consumer goods.The market for products designed to enhance one's attractiveness, such as personal care items, is substantial.And, of course, advertising utilizes sexual attractiveness to promote products.Schroeder's work extends basic questions about mate selection, as he uses singles ads to investigate the ability of evolutionary theory to explain the role of consumption in human courtship.