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Study asks: When it comes to dating what matters more, personality or money?

A couple take photos at the heart sea view point at Agios Theodoros village in Larnaca district in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) A couple take photos at the heart sea view point at Agios Theodoros village in Larnaca district in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
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Many people have an idea of what checkboxes their potential mate should hit in order to be a suitable partner.

And as it turns out, having a desirable personality is more important to most people looking for a partner than how much money they have in the bank, according to new research findings.

An international study from researchers at the universities of York and Essex revealed that economic factors such as income have steadily become less important than personality in dating.

To find out how dating preferences have changed over time, researchers examined more than a million "lonely hearts" advertisements in publications from Canada, France and India, spanning from 1950 to 1995, plus ads from 41 regional newspapers from Canada and the U.S. in 1995.

The results suggested that people dating in the U.S., Canada and France placed less of an importance on the economic status of a partner, while finances remained an important factor for those in India.

“Once India’s economy develops further, and the current generation are more secure financially, they may show a change in preference for personality factors as well,” said Khushboo Surana, study co-author from the University of York’s Department of Economics, in a press release. “This would align them with the trends we see in the Western countries we sampled.”

Through close examination of the language of the ads, the researchers categorized the writers into having four distinct preferences.

The first category involved those with a focus on their potential partner's financial situation. The second covered personality traits including openness and extroversion; the third was physical appearance; and the fourth included the hobbies and habits of a partner.

Here’s what they found.

Between 1950 and 1995, personality was consistently a top preference in Western countries, beating out economic factors, such as income, especially after the 1960s.

But in India, the desire for a partner meeting certain financial indicators actually increased after the 1970s, with personality factors remaining stable.

By gender comparison, women were found to place more ads that mentioned financial factors than men did.

Looking at the language that women used, approximately 45 per cent of the ads were related to desiring certain personality criteria, while only about 10 per cent of women spoke to financial factors in men.

For men, approximately only 5 per cent of their posts regarded financial factors.

According to the study researchers, the findings appear to support Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological model used to understand the motivations for human behaviour.

“In this framework, material needs – i.e. financial factors – have to be satisfied before you can focus on the immaterial ones, such as personality traits,” said Surana. “It is possible that unlike in the West, people’s first order needs still haven’t been satisfied, which is why we see a focus on economic criteria.”

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