Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Don’t be fooled by the frothy pink jacket art: this is a dense, academic volume. It addresses every conceivable aspect of the psychology of mate selection in late 20th-century America, giving equal emphasis to social and clinical approaches to understanding romance. The book’s first half is devoted to an ambitious and inclusive survey of the experimental literature on the general factors that influence attractionAfor example, similarity, geographical proximity, physical beauty and social status. The second half underscores the relevance of early childhood experiences with and between one’s parents in understanding one’s attraction to specific persons.Recent clinical theories suggest that we are attracted to persons who are in some critical way similar to our parents and who have the potential to directly stimulate, and thus heal, old childhood wounds. Pines also offers advice to those seeking love. But she does a far better job of educating readers than advising them. Although founded in scientific evidence, her suggestions are brief and simplistic (“try to be in a good mood when you meet new people”) and appear to have been tacked on to the end of each chapter simply to appeal to the self-help reader. Though Pine is at her best when laying out complex theoriesAaccurately referring to the original research studies on which her assertions and conclusions are basedAand the material is intellectually stimulating, reading it feels like work. Ten-city tour.