Unveiling The Curtain: A Deep Dive Into 'Open Casting' As A Dating Trend
The growing openness among twenty-somethings to date outside of their usual type stems from a desire for diversity, personal growth, and a quest to break free from societal expectations.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | July 19, 2023
When it comes to finding a potential partner, many of us have a mental checklist of traits we look for. Some may prefer dating a partner who is career-driven, physically attractive and independent, while others may be attracted to a more laid-back approach to work, strong religious beliefs and close family ties.
While this mental-checklist method makes intuitive sense, it doesn't explain why the current dating pool is willing to cast a wider net when it comes to prospective romantic partners. This willingness to broaden one's horizons in dating is called "open casting" — a term derived from the practice of open casting calls in the acting industry.
Here is why you may be increasingly motivated to date someone who doesn't fit your usual definition of a perfect partner:
You Understand That Initial Attraction Doesn't Always Guarantee Long-Term Compatibility
Think back to some of the most intense relationships of your past and answer these questions:
- Did the ex-partner seem perfect in the beginning, only for you to realize that you were looking at them through rose-tinted glasses?
- After the honeymoon phase of the relationship wore off, did you find that the very things that drew you to the person were now turn-offs?
- Was the process of getting over this person messy? Did you get sucked into a pattern of an on-again-off-again relationship with this ex as the relationship neared its end?
Often, when we decide to pursue a passionate romantic attraction, we may not be in the best position to make healthy decisions. In fact, passion can cause changes to the levels of dopamine (which contributes to feelings of pleasure) and oxytocin (also known as the 'love' hormone) in our brains and hijack our ability to make an objective evaluation of a potential partner, especially when the passion is mutual. Put simply, intense attraction can cloud our judgment.
For instance, it could make us feel more similar to someone we are attracted to than we actually are. A 2012 study published in Personal Relationships found that while similarity in traits predicted attraction, perceived similarity was more important than actual similarity in the initial stages. Although the study was conducted in the context of speed dating, the findings can be applied to the current fast-paced online dating environment. This is why many young people are able to turn to dating coaches who help them "play to the crowd" and design online dating profiles that get more matches.
With online dating turning into the mainstream phenomenon it is today, more people are able to see through this façade of similarity. Overexposure to excessively curated dating profiles, many of which may not lead to anything meaningful, could explain why more young women and men are willing to explore other profiles or types.
One 2016 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior delved into an important question: are we happier with a partner who fits our preference to a tee?
The study found that whether a partner ticked all the boxes or not had very little bearing on how satisfied we felt in the relationship. Rather, relationship satisfaction boiled down to two things:
- Whether our partner was a higher-value mate compared to ourselves
- Whether our partner was a higher-value mate compared to our other options
A more recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology explored how people's own ideal attributes for a partner predicted the romantic interest they feel toward potential partners. The study found that people were equally attracted to those who had the attributes others considered ideal and those who had the attributes they personally considered ideal. This means that while people may say they are looking for certain attributes in a partner, they may not fully understand why these attributes are important to them. In fact, more often than not, these ideal attributes they claim to value may be more socially determined than they realize.
These three studies converge on a key insight: our initial attraction and preferences for a partner might not always be the best indicators of long-term compatibility and relationship satisfaction.
This explains why limiting the restrictions placed on a potential partner's attributes seems attractive to young people, many of whom have likely had experiences dating within their type with little success in terms of long-term satisfaction.
During the initial stages of getting to know each other, partners might tend to portray themselves as each other's perfect match. Long-term compatibility hinges on numerous factors such as the value a partner contributes to your life and their approach to conflict resolution, among others. Open casting encourages us to remain open to surprises and discoveries about our own preferences. It reflects the reality that our actual desires may not align with our perceived preferences, and that we might not truly know what we're looking for in a partner until we see it. That's why open casting can sometimes lead to more rewarding and fulfilling relationships.