When Honesty Isn't the Best Policy: The Positive Effects of Uncertainty on Romantic Attraction

Whitchurch, Erin Rapien, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Wilson, Timothy, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Many adages advise avoiding uncertainty; however work on emotional adaptation suggests that, at times, uncertainty is beneficial. The present research extends these findings to the attraction domain. I hypothesize that uncertainty about another's romantic interest increases liking for that person more than certainty. Specifically, I test a model which proposes that uncertainty increases thoughts about a target which triggers self perception change and subsequently increases attraction. In three studies, participants felt certain or uncertain about a target's interest in them and then reported their attraction for and thoughts about the targets. As predicted, uncertain participants reported more attraction to targets than certain participants, attraction was partially mediated by thoughts about the targets, and, when given an alternative explanation for their thoughts, uncertain participants no longer report greater romantic attraction. This research offers a new way to look at attraction and suggests an additional determinant of attraction, namely uncertainty.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
emotions, uncertainty, attraction
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