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Romance and Risk: Romantic Attraction and Health Risks in the Process of Relationship Formation
Unformatted Document Text:  16 respondents felt it was important to know something about the potential partner’s “appearance” (e.g., was he/she “beautiful/attractive”, “handsome/pretty”, “cute”), less than 5% felt it was important to know about “accessories” (i.e., does the potential partner have piercing, tattoos, or does he or she wear glasses or carry a laptop case?). In addition to “appearance”, only 4 other attributes were selected as one of the 15 most important by at least 60% of respondents. Generally speaking, most of the attributes selected by more than 50% of the respondents are those that provide information about personality, lifestyle, and habits of a potential partner. Thus, except for appearance and perhaps age, some of the information people feel is most important concerning a potential partner would probably not be available on the first encounter. How then do young adults decide whether a potential partner is “safe” or “risky”? As indicated above, there was a general agreement across gender and ethnicity concerning the extent to which a given attribute was viewed as indicating attractiveness or a health risk. Although we had expected to find that many young adults relied on apparently “irrelevant” attributes to judge whether a potential partner was a health risk, very few of the 159 attributes considered were rated as “risky.” In retrospect, it is perhaps not surprising that, given that the attributes we considered were identified through personal ads, over 50% of the

Authors: Johnson, Brenda., Fishbein, Martin., Hennessy, Michael. and Yzer, Marcus.
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respondents felt it was important to know something about the
potential partner’s “appearance” (e.g., was he/she
“beautiful/attractive”, “handsome/pretty”, “cute”), less than 5%
felt it was important to know about “accessories” (i.e., does the
potential partner have piercing, tattoos, or does he or she wear
glasses or carry a laptop case?). In addition to “appearance”,
only 4 other attributes were selected as one of the 15 most
important by at least 60% of respondents.
Generally speaking, most of the attributes selected by more
than 50% of the respondents are those that provide information
about personality, lifestyle, and habits of a potential partner.
Thus, except for appearance and perhaps age, some of the
information people feel is most important concerning a potential
partner would probably not be available on the first encounter.
How then do young adults decide whether a potential partner is
“safe” or “risky”?
As indicated above, there was a general agreement across
gender and ethnicity concerning the extent to which a given
attribute was viewed as indicating attractiveness or a health
risk. Although we had expected to find that many young adults
relied on apparently “irrelevant” attributes to judge whether a
potential partner was a health risk, very few of the 159
attributes considered were rated as “risky.” In retrospect, it is
perhaps not surprising that, given that the attributes we
considered were identified through personal ads, over 50% of the


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