Does Thinking About Dating Make Dating Worse? The Science!
By Heath Shive
We teach children that imagination is a good thing.
But imagination is not automatically good. We can imagine good things. We can imagine terrible things.
We can imagine scenarios that make us feel like losers or failures. We can imagine scenarios that paint us as sexy or invincible.
Imagination is never real...yet despite this, we tend to identify with whatever we imagine.
Baltasar Gracian - a 17th-century Jesuit & author of The Art of Worldly Wisdom - wrote that we need to discipline imagination. Gracian writes: "Of all things she (imagination) is capable, if not held in check by the wisest of wills."
And science agrees!
How do you imagine yourself...as a date? As a lover?
To the science!
Love Is An Anchor?
In psychology, an anchor is an idea that sets the tone for subsequent thoughts. If you think about how bad your day is going, all other thoughts will be influenced.
In 1988, psychologists Fritz Strack, Leonard Martin, and Norbert Schwarz performed an anchoring experiment on the subject of romance.
In the experiment, college students were asked 2 questions: (1) How happy are you? (2) How often are you dating?
When the questions were asked in that order, the correlation between the answers was low (0.11).
But when the experimenters asked the dating question first, the correlation increased dramatically to 0.62!
In other words, if first you were reminded that you are not dating often, then you subsequently thought you were miserable in general.
The experimenters had similar results when they asked married couples about how often they made love.
Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
We have been taught that imagination is without limits! But in fact, imagination is limited. Psychological anchors narrow the scope of thoughts and imaginings.
The vast majority of humanity is not dating or making love very often! Your romantic life is just 1 color in the tapestry of your existence. Let's say you have 10 aspects to your life, 1 of which is romance. If you are doing well in the other 9 aspects, then 90% is pretty damn good!
The more you think about your love life, the more it sets the tone for other thoughts. But your thoughts are not the same as your life!
Your life is a reality. Your thoughts are just your imagination.
And as Gracian wrote, we must discipline our imagination with "the wisest of wills."
Strack, Fritz, L. L. Martin, and Norbert Schwaz. "Priming and Communication: The Social Determinants of Information Use in Judgments of Life-Satisfaction." European Journal of Social Psychology 18 (1988): 429-42.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.