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The secret to finding love: Framing theory

Concordia University research suggests those seeking love are especially influenced by information framed negatively.

Don't get framed in love. CherryLanesCupcakes/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I know you've suffered.

There were times where you were so lonely you could cry. You'd been rejected by what you thought was your one true love and, given our brave new technological era, it didn't even happen in person.

Worse, you'd thought that someone was phenomenally, pheromonally interested in you, only to discover that you were brushed off at the vital moment.

You scream into the night: "Why? Why? Why?" -- until your friends make you realize you're actually at a club and you've have five too many margaritas.

Today, I'm going to help you achieve a little peaceful closure. I'm going to help you understand the rejection, the disappointment, the injustice.

I'm going to talk to you about framing theory.

People often aren't confident in their own feelings and opinions. They might seem to be. In fact, though, they are hugely susceptible to the way things are put to them.

I am grateful to Forbes for easing me toward research performed at Concordia University. This research has a very loving title: "The framing effect when evaluating prospective mates: an adaptationist perspective."

The idea was to present the same information to participants about a prospective lover. The only difference was that the information would have either a positive or a negative framing.

Positive example: 8 out of 10 people think he's the loveliest guy on Earth. Negative example: 2 out of 10 people think he's the schmuck's schmuck.

The conclusions might bring a shiver to you first, then, hopefully, a little understanding.

As the researchers put it: "Women exhibited larger framing effects than men (and in three of the four experimental conditions), and this sex difference was driven by women's greater sensitivity to negatively framed information."

In essence, if a woman hears something that sounds negative about you, she's going to head for the hills without leaving a forwarding address.

But why? Well, again the researchers have the answer: "This robust sex effect is a manifestation of the greater vigilance that women show within the mating domain."

Yes, it's that vigilance thing. And it shows its most marked effects -- at least according to these researchers -- when evaluating a man's earning potential and ambition.

I pause for your tears, quill designers.

Men aren't immune from framing effect. However, for them, it seems to happen most strongly in one sole area. You'll never guess. It's in the area of "attractive face."

This is mere "ecological rationality," say the researchers. I say it's ontological disaster.

So often one hears of couplings that are built on the foundation of "niceness." Yet this apparent niceness turns to dullness quite soon after the bouquet is tossed backward and reality plunges forward.

Who hasn't been witness to the influence of friends who frame their description of a potential mate as: "Aw, he's just so likable" or "Yeah, everyone thinks she's cool"?

But surely the secret of all this is never to listen to anyone else's opinion.

People tend to frame things according to their own perspectives, rather than anything that might resemble someone else's. You only have to look at the way the media is manipulated (example video above, just from yesterday) to present one impression or another.

How often do we view a star's personality according to the tone in which he or she is presented?

In your own, perhaps very simple, life, there is just as much framing performed by others whose perspectives don't match yours.

There's nothing worse than your best friend or bartender telling you: "Most people I know says her nose is too big for her face" or "A couple of people say he's the worst boyfriend they've ever had."

What matters ultimately is what the one person thinks: you.

Or don't you trust yourself?