How to Make an Online Dating Profile Appealing: New Research

The fact that the first dating websites appeared only in the 1990s might seem surprising. However, dating websites have developed significantly over the last three decades. This development had a significant impact on how partners met, fell in love, and developed their relationships. These days, over one-third of marriages start online. But this data differs depending on the culture.

Modern online-mediated cultures of relationships have changed intimate practices in online dating apps.

Research findings have shown the ambiguities and opportunities men and women experience using dating apps.

One of the challenging questions is how to create an attractive online dating profile.

Most people who are looking for love online will fill out their profiles with all the interesting things about themselves that make them stand out. They have a dog, three kids, or an iguana. On the weekends, they paraglide and do hot yoga, or something like this.

Sometimes, though, they forget to say what they want to know about a potential partner. They, however, are not always aware that others are not less but may be more interested “to be known” than “to know them as their partner.”

New Research on Dating Profiles Shows

A recent series of experiments conducted by Juliana Schroeder, Professor of Management Philosophy & Values at Berkeley Haas, and Ayelet Fishbach, Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, showed that the most important thing online dating users should keep in mind is that people are more satisfied when they feel like “they are known,”  rather than when they feel like “they know the other person.

Juliana Schroeder and Ayelet Fishbach recruited a group of research assistants to analyze dating profiles from Match.com and Coffee Meets Bagel. According to the information provided in the profiles, more than 50% of the writers were rated as desiring recognition from a potential partner, whereas only around 20% expressed a wish to know their potential partner.

Subsequently, the researchers requested a group of many online participants to compose their own profiles, with the option to emphasize being known or getting to know the other person. Then, they surveyed an additional 250 individuals to evaluate these profiles based on “how much they found them appealing and how much they would potentially want to contact them” using a rating system ranging from 1 to 7. Thus, their ratings evaluated the level of attractiveness and the likelihood of wanting to initiate contact with the individuals in the profiles.

What Do People Look for in Dating Profiles?

Consistent with their previous findings, Schroeder and Fishbach discovered that the raters exhibited a preference for the profile authors who placed emphasis on their desire to understand the other person.

These findings could provide valuable guidance for individuals seeking to enhance their attractiveness on a dating platform.

“What they want to be doing is saying, ‘I really care about you, and I’m going to get to know you and be there for you and listen to you and be a great partner,”

Schroeder says.

That makes sense, Schroeder says, adding credence to the notion that the phenomenon of a parent-child relationship is primarily about support.

 “It’s the one relationship where it’s very clear the parent needs to be supporting the child.”

A New Perspective for This Research

Schroeder and Fishbach’s next research task is to explore how individuals can redirect their attention towards utilizing their understanding of others to genuinely make them feel recognized. Then, it’s likely that experiencing a sense of being recognized may enhance both partners’ satisfaction with their relationships.

This positive perspective may also work in a workplace context, improving relationships with coworkers.

“To develop relationships with work colleagues, you might think not just about personal knowledge but also what are people’s habits and how they like to work,”

Schoeder says.

“While this was beyond the scope of our study, it’s possible that stronger workplace relationships could ultimately make a difference in terms of people’s satisfaction with their jobs.” 

What Is More Important for Relationship Satisfaction: To Know Others or To Be Known?

Partners’ mutual understanding in a relationship is very important for relationship satisfaction in romantic and companionate relationships, as well as with friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, and casual acquaintances.

What Is More Important: “To Know Your Partner” or “To Be Known”?

A series of experimental studies conducted by Juliana Schroeder and Ayelet Fishbach showed that the most important thing is that people are more satisfied when they feel like “they are known, rather than when they feel like “they know the other person.

“People want to be known, so they’re looking for partners who will know them and support them. But because other people also want to be known, they end up writing these not-super-appealing profiles when trying to attract partners.”

Juliana Schroeder said.

In their recent paper “Feeling Known Predicts Relationship Satisfaction,” Juliana Schroeder, Professor of Management Philosophy & Values at Berkeley Haas, and Ayelet Fishbach, Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, contend that this phenomenon affects all types of our interpersonal relationships, including those with friends, romantic partners, neighbors, family members, coworkers, and casual acquaintances.

“Of course, people say they want to know their relationship partner and support their partner. But that’s not actually the thing that makes them happiest in their relationships. People feel happier in relationships where they feel like they are being supported—and for that, they have to be known.”

Juliana Schroeder said.

Here’s What Really Leads to Relationship Satisfaction

In their experimental studies, researchers first asked participants to rate how well they thought they knew a family member, partner, or friend compared to how well they thought they were known. Then, researchers asked participants to rate their relationship satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 7. It’s interesting to note that people frequently believed they knew the other person better than they did.

Researchers called this effect the illusion of asymmetric insight.

“People think they are unique and special and have a lot of complexity to them, so other people just don’t know their true self. Whereas once they know one thing about the other person, they’re like ‘I know you. Done. “

Schroeder says.

People value relationships more when they feel that someone truly knows them, maybe because it happens so rarely. The results of that study showed that

“In fact, the degree to which they knew the other person mattered less in how they felt about the relationship compared to the degree to which they felt they were known, regardless of how they felt about the overall quality of the relationship.”

Schroeder says.

In another study, the researchers gave participants one of two scenarios in which they encountered an acquaintance at a party who either forgot their name or whose name they forgot. Participants reacted differently to the two scenarios. Schroeder commented on this:

“If you forget their name, it’s not great for the relationship, but if they forget your name, it’s much worse — the relationship is over,”

Schroeder says.

What Occurs in Our Brain When We Fall in Love with Someone?

The need for love is one of the most basic physiological and psychological needs people have. We need to love someone and be loved by somebody. Although people’s experiences and expressions of love may vary across cultures and situations, their basic human needs for love are still universal across the world (Karandashev, 2019).

I wrote about how our brain developed the ability to love in another article.

The activation of certain neural and physiological mechanisms in our body and brain generates the psychological experience and expression of love. These biological mechanisms for the capacity and necessity to love have developed in our mammalian ancestors throughout the course of biological evolution (Karandashev, 2022).

How Our Brain Works When We Fall in Love

Studies of the neurophysiological processes involved in our feelings of love have proliferated in the last two decades. Brain imaging techniques have been a valuable method to study human cerebral functions associated with love and romantic relationships.

Neuroscientists have traditionally investigated the subcortical structures of reward-related systems involved in the experience of love. Later neuroimaging studies showed that, in addition to these subcortical structures, different cortical networks and cognitive factors play an important role in reward-related systems associated with the experience of love.

Several scientists investigated how men and women feel in the early stages of romantic love and what occurs in their brains and bodies. Early-stage romantic love often induces euphoria.

What is happening in our brains when we are falling in love? According to Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist at Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues, the first activation of love occurs in a primitive part of the brain’s reward system that is located in the midbrain. This finding once again confirms that our ability to love stems from the long evolutionary history of our animals’ ancestors. It is possible that romantic love originated from a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Love

Lucy Brown and her colleagues studied seven men and ten women who were “in love” using the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Some of these participants were intensely in love, while others were moderately in love or had a low thrill for their partner.

Participants in this study alternately perceived a photograph of their beloved and a photograph of another familiar person that researchers exposed to them in the fMRI machine. When participants perceived the photo of their romantic partner, they experienced a feeling of love. What occurred in their brain? Researchers recorded brain activation in the midbrain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). This is the part of the brain connected to meeting basic needs, such as eating when we are hungry and drinking when we are thirsty.

Professor Brown commented,

“It’s the area of the brain that controls things like swallowing and other basic reflexes. While we often think about romantic love as this euphoric, amorphous thing and as a complex emotion, the activation we see in this very basic part of the brain is telling us that romantic love is actually a drive to fulfill a basic need.”

The Hormones of Love

Stephanie Cacioppo, a professor from the University of Chicago, and her colleagues revealed more findings on how love affects our brains.

Researchers found 12 areas of the brain that are activated to release chemicals such as dopamine, the hormone associated with “feel-good,” oxytocin, the hormone associated with “cuddle hormone,” and adrenaline, which stimulates a euphoric sense of purpose. These findings also showed that the brain’s reward circuit, which includes the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex, is sensitive to behaviors that induce pleasure. These parts of the brain are active when we are talking about a loved one, and these areas have increased blood flow.

When these processes are occurring in the brain, our level of serotonin, a hormone responsible for the regulation of appetite and intrusive anxious thinking, decreases. Low levels of serotonin are common among men and women experiencing anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

“This explains why people in the early stages of love can become obsessed with small details, spending hours debating about a text to or from their beloved,”

Stephanie Cacioppo

What Love Languages Are and Whether We Should Know Them

Over 30 years ago, Baptist pastor Gary Chapman introduced a theory of love languages, suggesting five typical ways people express and perceive love. His book “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts” has become very popular since that time in many countries around the world. Chapman’s theory suggests that love means different things to different people. The author identified 5 different meanings and corresponding ways of expressing love. These languages of love are

  • words of affirmation (giving compliments),
  • gifts (presents big and small),
  • acts of service (helping your partner with chores or in other ways),
  • quality time (doing things together) or
  • physical touch (such as hugs, kisses or sex).

Gary Chapman claims that understanding your partner’s love language is the key to a good relationship. Many people who read his book have found it to be helpful in their relationship with a partner. This competency can have a tremendous positive impact on romantic and marital relationships.

Is the Theory of Love Languages Science or Pop Culture?

A neuroscientist and journalist, Richard Sima, discusses this question in a recent article in the Washington Post, January 15, 2024. Let’s consider some evidence.

Chapman strongly believes that almost everyone has a primary love language. And this language “tends to stay with us throughout a lifetime,” he said. According to his opinion, the only people he has encountered who say all five are equally important are those who either were always loved or never loved.

Chapman admits, “I’m not a researcher.” He said that some researchers criticizing his theory of 5 love languages interpret his work too strictly.

“I was never dogmatic to say that there’s only five love languages. I’m still open, but I’m a little more confident that these(five)are pretty much fundamental to human nature.”

Chapman said.

Some researchers, however, question the scientific validity of the concept of 5 love languages. Emily Impett, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, Canada, and her co-authors Haeyoung Gideon Park and Amy Muise  recently published an article in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science presenting an extensive review of the scientific literature on the topic (Impett et al., 2024). They concluded that core assumptions about love languages stand on shaky ground, unsupported by empirical evidence.

Their analysis of scientific publications has shown that there is no strong empirical support for the book’s three central assumptions that

  • (a) each person has a preferred love language,
  • (b) there are five love languages,
  • (c) couples are more satisfied when partners speak one another’s preferred language. 

Here are the main points of critiques:

1. Do People Have a Primary Love Language?

The existence of the person’s “primary” love language is a cornerstone of love language advice. So, a key assumption of Chapman’s book is that you need to know the primary love language your partner speaks. Researchers found that people tend to connect with several love languages, not one.

“In real life, we know that people often don’t need to make these kinds of trade-offs between do you want a partner who is going to touch you versus express love in some other way,”

Impett said.

“If that’s the core assumption, then everything that follows kind of falls apart in a lot of different ways,”

said Sara Algoe.

2. People Have More Than 5 Love Languages

Researchers show that people experience and express love in more than the five ways, or five key love languages, as defined by Chapman.

Other expressions of love are possible, such as the support of a partner’s autonomy and personal growth.

“We know that these things are really key for relationship satisfaction and might be more meaningful to couples with more egalitarian values,”

Impett said. 

“Just being nice to your mother-in-law, being on time for the opera, creating interests together, learning things together, doing novel things together. It’s a little different than just spending time together.”

said Helen Fisher

3. Having the Same Love Language May Not Lead to Relationship Satisfaction

Chapman’s theory of love languages implies that learning the love language of a partner and speaking the same love language as your partner’s would lead to a successful relationship.

However, studies show that partners who have the same primary love languages do not necessarily have higher relationship satisfaction compared to those who have different love languages.

According to Emily Impett, research suggests that perceiving expressions of love in any form leads to high relationship satisfaction.

Family therapist Dr. Gottman, co-founder with his wife Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, is renowned for scientific relationship research. He expressed his doubts that learning your partner’s love language is a key to relationship happiness.

“My general conclusion is that these dimensions are not very distinct conceptually, nor are they very important in terms of accounting for variation in marital happiness and sexual satisfaction,”

said Dr. Gottman.

Gottman believes that the idea of love languages focuses on the important question of partners’ needs and their satisfaction in a relationship:

“What can I do to make you feel more loved now, and help me understand where you are right now?”

Responding to all criticism, Chapman said that

“He understands that love languages aren’t “the answer to everything in marriage, for sure. But I think it could be a helpful tool for any individual or any couple that wants to enhance their relationship and especially meet each other’s need to feel loved.”

Personal Qualities That Are More Attractive for Love Than Our Looks

Many believe that our looks are what matter most in attracting the love of a potential partner. Yes, physical attraction is what people desire in a loved one. However, desirable personality traits are what matter most.

According to the surveys of heterosexual and homosexual partners, appearance and sexiness are only in the middle of the preferred characteristics of a partner. On the other hand, such personality traits as extraversion, intelligence, and agreeableness are higher than physical attraction as the qualities that women and men in different-sex and same-sex couples look for in a partner.

As co-founder of the dating app So Syncd, Jess Alderson says, we do prefer personality over looks. For example, in the sample of more than 1,000 users, almost 90% preferred certain personality traits over looks.

Why Agreeableness Is Desired for Love

Agreeableness is among the indicators of someone’s interpersonal skills. It characterizes how compassionate and caring people are. This personal quality plays an important role for both men and women in their initial preference for a date’s desirability. This trait is also a strong predictor of current and future relationship satisfaction and durability. For men as well as for women, physical attractiveness comes together with agreeableness in their desire for a love relationship. “Agreeableness is kind of a necessity,” says Greg Webster, a psychology professor at the University of Florida. In relationships, agreeableness, combined with other attractive traits, can bring the best out of people. See more about this research here.

The factor of similarity also plays a role. We feel attracted to others who share values similar to ours.

How does it work in the case of agreeableness? More agreeable people tend to see others as kind and friendly, finding them similar. This is why we match with people who have personalities similar to our own.

Why Similarity and Familiarity Matter for Love

We tend to look for similar and familiar others in our pursuit of love, not only in agreeableness but also in other personality traits, such as openness to a new experience and conscientiousness.

Partners with high similarity in the personality traits of conscientiousness and openness to a new experience are better in their ability to solve problems and manage daily tasks.

Similarity and familiarity are important in many other things (Berscheid & Reis, 1998; Orbuch & Sprecher, 2003). We also find attractive the other person who is physically and genetically similar to us, how close they live geographically to us, whether we belong to the same social groups, and whether we approve of their friends.

Why Some Differences Are Attractive for a Relationship

Despite the importance of similarities and familiarities in traits, personality differences might also be appealing for love.

Partners with complementary traits match well with each other, according to the observations of Jess Alderson, a co-founder of the dating app So Syncd.

“It makes sense that we’ve evolved to be attracted to people who at least have a certain amount of differences to ourselves. We make a stronger team and would be more likely to survive. But again, you need that kind of intimacy that draws you together.”

“We pair couples who have just enough similarities to form a strong connection, and then just enough differences to create that spark of excitement,” says Alderson.

“If you are too similar, it can be a little bit boring. And then if you’re too different, it can just not be that fun on a daily basis.”

It turns out that similarity and equality between partners are not necessarily the best things for a good relationship. And the dominance quality of one partner can be a good thing for love.

For example, social psychologists Angela Bryan, Greg Webster, and Amanda Mahaffey looked at socially, physically, and financially dominant people and the effect agreeableness had on their appeal (Bryan, Webster, & Mahaffey, 2011).

Researchers found that social, physical, and financial types of dominance are attractive to others. Each can provide a kind of protection or access to basic needs, like food and shelter, through to more desirable needs, like lavish lifestyles.

Yet, dominance traits can be used for good and bad:

“We can think of dominance as being turned inward towards a relationship or as being focused outward away from the relationship. What people want are partners who are socially, physically, or financially dominant, but not necessarily towards their partner,”

says Webster.

When dominance is mediated by agreeableness, it is a combination of qualities appealing to interpersonal attraction. “It’s one thing if you’re able to dominate other people, but are you willing to share those resources with your romantic partner?” For attractive partners, agreeableness accentuates the benefits of other personal qualities.

How Online Dating Changed Cross-Cultural Love and Relationships

The last several decades have witnessed the emergence and extensive development of dating websites. This progress greatly changed the way partners meet, love, and how their relationships evolve.

How Dating Websites Emerged and Expanded

It may look surprising that the first dating websites came only in the 1990s. In 1995, Match.com went online. In the early 2000s, a new wave of dating sites like OKCupid came out. When Tinder came out in 2012, it changed dating even more. There are now more than one-third of marriages that begin online. This data, however, varies across cultures.

These websites have obviously had a significant influence on dating behavior. However, evidence is mounting that their impact is far more substantial. Interesting statistical data from research shows the variety of places and ways in which partners met each other over the last decades.

How Traditional Networks of Dating Work

The social networks associated with family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances were the most prevalent sources of prospective dating partners. People are strongly connected to a small group of neighbors and only loosely connected to people who live far away. It turns out that these loose connections are very important.

Loose ties have traditionally played an important role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were much more likely to date someone from their group of friends, such as a friend of a friend. Men and women met their partners through their families, at church, through mutual friends, in bars, in educational institutions, at work, and so on.

The Modern Way of Online Dating

The networks of dating have changed with the onset of online dating. Nowadays, heterosexual couples meet through online dating, which is the second most popular method. It’s the most popular choice by far for homosexual couples.

Online dating has led to significant consequences, extending the pool of potential dating partners. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Josue Ortega from the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich from the University of Vienna in Austria, the authors of the recent study.

Online Dating Is Conducive to Intercultural Marriages

These new opportunities extended chances for intercultural relationships, love, and marriages. Some societies are more favorable for intercultural marriages than others.

The statistics of intercultural marriages in the United States of American present a good example for analysis. For instance, J. Ortega and P. Hergovich compared the rates of interracial marriages in the U.S. over the past several decades and found that the number of interracial marriages increased for some time, but the rates were still low.

However, the rates of increase in interracial marriages substantially changed at about the time that online dating became popular. The researchers say,

“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly.”

When online dating became even more popular, this increase in interracial marriages became even steeper in the 2000s. Later, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages expanded again. “It is interesting that this increase occurred shortly after the creation of Tinder, considered the most popular online dating app,” researchers say.

Married Couples Who Meet Online Are More Stable

It is worth noting that, with about 50 million users, Tinder produces over 12 million matches daily. In the meantime, research into the strength of marriage has discovered some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup compared to those who meet in traditional settings.

Humor Helps Maintain Love Relationships

Men and women tend to love humorous people and perceive them as more attractive. They feel attracted to those with a good sense of humor and consider humor a desirable trait in romantic partners during the early stages of relationships.

How important is humor in a relationship over time? It is possible that we not only perceive humorous people as attractive but also tend to perceive someone we like as humorous (Li et al., 2009). For example, when we are happy in a relationship, we find our partner funny, even though she or he may not be objectively that funny in the first place.

How a Recent Study Conducted

A recent study conducted by Kenneth Tan, an assistant professor of psychology at Singapore Management University, and his colleagues Bryan Choy, and Norman Li. showed that humor also plays a role in maintaining and strengthening relationships. Partners use jokes and funny stories to signal continued interest in each other and improve their relationship.

Kenneth Tan and his colleagues conducted a study with a sample of 108 couples who were involved in romantic relationships with an average duration of 18.27 months. The researchers asked partners to complete daily assessments for seven consecutive evenings, reporting their perceptions of humor within their relationships and their levels of relationship commitment, perceived partner commitment, and relationship satisfaction.

This way, researchers investigated how humor and relationship quality fluctuate within established romantic relationships on a day-to-day basis. They found that humor functions as a means to signal and maintain the interest of partners in a romantic relationship.

The Study Found Complex Relations Between Humor and Relationship Quality

Their findings demonstrated that on days when partners reported higher levels of commitment, perceived partner commitment, or relationship satisfaction, they also more frequently used humor in communication with their partners. Furthermore, positive relationship quality between partners on one day increases the use of humor and perception the next day. Thus, relationship quality in current interactions positively influences the use of humor in subsequent interactions. This way, they use humor to express their continued interest in an ongoing relationship.

On days where partners were more satisfied and committed to the relationship, they found their romantic partner more humorous, both on the same day and the next. On days when they were less satisfied and committed to their relationship, they found their partner less humorous, both on the same day and the next.

The study did not reveal gender differences in its findings. Both women and men tend to use humor to maintain interest and strengthen their relationships.

In conclusion, one might typically think that humor is more important in the early phase of relationships to establish attraction than in the later stage of the relationship. However, the study found that humor did not show stronger effects on relationships that were shorter in length.

Humor, as well as smiling and laughter, improve our love relationship at any stage of a relationship.

Love Songs Are Not Universal Across Cultures

Music seems a universal language of love, and love songs are cross-culturally recognizable and understandable. The writer John Anderer illustrates that it might be right to refer to the iconic song “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” a song by English rock band Joy Division, released in June 1980.

Is Music a Universal Language Across Cultures?

Researchers from Yale University generally agree with the statement that music is universal. Their research revealed that, with the notable exception of love songs, people all over the world can recognize the themes found in songs and music regardless of national boundaries or cultural backgrounds.

As Samuel Mehr, an assistant professor adjunct at the Yale Child Study Center and a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Auckland, says:

All around the world, people sing in similar ways. Music is deeply rooted in human social interaction.

Researchers studied over 5,000 people from 49 nations, asking them to listen to 14-second snippets of vocals from songs originating from many cultures around the world. The participants were people from a variety of cultures around the world, including individuals from relatively small cultural communities.

Researchers asked participants to listen to the songs in 31 various languages. Then they asked to rank how likely it is that each sample of music belongs to one of four musical types: lullabies, dance, “healing” music, or love music.

The authors conclude that listeners’ ratings were largely accurate, consistent with one another, and not explained by their linguistic or geographical proximity to the singer. This result showed that musical diversity is underlain by universal psychological phenomena.”

The lead author, Lidya Yurdum, explains that

“Our minds have evolved to listen to music. It is not a recent invention. But if we only study songs from the western world and listeners from the western world, we can only draw conclusions about the western world — not humans in general.”

What Kind of Music Do People Easier Recognize?

Results of the study showed that people from various cultures around the world relatively easily recognize lullabies and dance music and, to a lesser degree, “healing” music. However, they showed the least ability to identify love songs.

These are surprising results. Lidya Yurdum, a graduate student at the University of Amsterdam who works as a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center, explains the results this way:

“One reason for this could be that love songs may be a particularly fuzzy category that includes songs that express happiness and attraction, but also sadness and jealousy. Listeners who heard love songs from neighboring countries and in languages related to their own actually did a little better, likely because of the familiar linguistic and cultural clues.”

The Courage to Love

Sometimes love requires strong actions. When we love someone, it is easy to mistake the respect we feel we should have towards the other person’s choices, with cowardice and fear. In the case of parental love, for instance, it is crucial to be able to distinguish between interfering and intervening. This is one of the themes present in Follow your Heart, an Italian novel that despite its astonishing commercial successithas been translated into eighteen languages and sold over sixteen million copies worldwide – is often dismissed as excessively sentimental and soppy. A more careful reading uncovers the true themes at its core: incapacity to deal with human emotions – often disguised as modesty – going hand in hand with familial histories of abuse within a patriarchal arrangement of relationships harmful to women as well as men.

An extensive article on the novel is included in the collective volume Love and the Politics of Intimacy (2023), an exploration of love in the 21st century. Incorporating academic writing and original creative work from scholars around the globe, the volume seeks inspiration for transforming and re-mapping the pathways of love.

Love Does Not Suit the Lazy

The novel tells the story of Olga, a grandmother who feels that her relationship to Marta, her granddaughter, has been recently infiltrated by sourness and misunderstandings. Sensing the nearness of her death, Olga recognises the urgency to communicate truthfully to her granddaughter. She therefore consigns to the pages of a diary the honest confession of her life. 

While telling her story to Marta, Olga exposes a palpable absence of love in all her most significant relationships. Between herself and her husband, as well as between herself and her parents, communication was formal and insincere. Olga recalls her mother dying “unsatisfied and holding a grudge” after a marriage characterized by unkindness and spite. As Olga’s account reaches its highpoint, the reader discovers that at the centre of Olga’s pain is an immense sense of guilt for having  caused – albeit involuntarily – the car accident in which her daughter died.

Wishing to leave behind an honest and coherent narrative of her life, for herself as well as for Marta, Olga recognizes, one by one, her faults and mistakes. First, she sees that behind her apparently progressive choice of respecting and not interfering with her daughter’s unhappiness was hidden a good amount of laziness and cowardice: “love doesn’t suit the lazy, sometimes it requires strong, precise actions. Do you see? I disguised my listless cowardice as noble sentiments about personal liberty” (Tamaro, 1994, p. 63-64).

Olga’s Lack of Courage

Ultimately, Olga blames her lack of courage and self-knowledge for her incapacity to really love her daughter, for not having understood the difference between interfering and intervening, and for having lived her life in fear: “most of my life has been like this, I didn’t swim, I floundered. With uncertain, confused movements, without elegance or joy, I have barely managed to keep myself afloat” (Tamaro, 1994, p.79).

One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that it does not shy away from describing the strong connection between emotional incompetence, its damaging and far-reaching power, and cruelty, one of its most frequent outcomes. Olga, who was a young woman in post-fascist Italy, connects her bitterness to the condition of women in general, vividly describing a world in which men could access opportunities of self-realization: “men had their professions, their politics, their wars, they had outlets for their energy. Women, to the contrary, for countless generations have been confined to the bedroom, the kitchen, and the bathroom; we have taken millions of steps, millions of gestures, each one encumbered by the same rancour and the same dissatisfaction” (Tamaro, 1994, 49-50).

The Courage of Reading without Prejudice

While reading the story of Olga, I thought that it could be of particular interest to the younger generations, more and more accustomed, when discussing familial or romantic relationships, to a language that highlights consent, self-affirmation, the transparency of feelings, as if these perspectives had always been widely shared and available to everyone. To the contrary, private histories have always been, and still are, fraught with conflicts, abuse, and ineptitude in dealing with human emotions. As such, narratives that investigate these aspects should be read without prejudice in order to better understand the complex and contradictory history of our relationships.

Francesca Pierini, Asian University for Women

Why People Love Romantic Comedies

Why are romantic comedies so popular among people? Do their narratives reflect men’s and women’s love?

Romantic comedies, also known as rom-coms, are among the most popular film genres. However, they have often been criticized for not being serious enough and for distorting people’s perceptions of love.

Anthropology of Romantic Comedies

Marianne Gabrielsson, a student from the School of Global Studies at University of Gothenburg studied these questions from an anthropological perspective. She explored:

  • Why do people watch romcoms?
  • In what way do people embody love as portrayed in romcoms?
  • How can we relate people’s perceptions of love to the romcom genre?

What the Study Revealed

Thus, according to the recent study conducted by Marianne Gabrielsson,

  • Romantic comedies have psychopharmacologic functions in the sense of escapism.
  • People embody romcoms in terms of EPIC love, disappointment, fear, non-realistic demands, resignation, false happiness, or joy.
  • Romantic comedies are often negatively loaded with ideals, traditionalism, stereotypes, and conformity.

The Functions that Romantic Comedies Have in People’ Lives

The concept of escapism serves as an indicator of underlying societal issues, wherein romantic comedies are often depicted as a potential solution rather than a contributing factor to these problems.

Paradoxically, romantic comedies present this solution in a stigmatized, negative tone, causing feelings of shame, blame, and belittleness, contextualizing romcoms as a ‘guilty pleasure’ for the female consumer.

As a result of this paradox, culture continues to rewrite cultural norms and reinforce stereotypes, reproducing the outdated idea of the Other. This way, romantic comedies divide people into intellectual, serious, and pragmatic consumers and the rest: the naive and stupid consumers of banal and superficial depictions of love.

This suggests a shift in the focus of discourse from a widely shared sentiment of love to a more practical and rational approach.

Nevertheless, the study found that love is related to pragmatism, disappointment, and love always being for someone else. The author conducted the interviews that revealed a prevalent views of love as aspirations, dreams, and a desire for a love that transcends societal norms and expectations.

Conclusions of the Study

The author concludes that the complexity exhibited by romantic comedies presents a promising path for future academic research. Within this realm, three specific aspects have emerged as particularly intriguing subjects of study:

  • 1) The phenomenon of culture consumption encompasses various forms such as film, literature, music, and social media. And it has its significant impact on society.
  • 2) The persistent practice of rewriting culture is an ongoing process that shapes and reshapes societal norms and values.
  • 3) Within the field of anthropology, there exists a notable gap in the discourse surrounding the potential universality of love as a human experience.