As someone looking for a virtuous girl, I have been working under the assumption that Church is a relatively good place to meet girls. After all, girls that go to church are likely to be (or want to be) of a virtuous nature. But I must admit to at least one flaw with this strategy, which was brought to my attention by Daniel Kahneman’s excellent book “Thinking, fast and slow.” First impressions last.
When presented with a list of traits of a person, the order matters, because your mind (the unconscious System 1) develops a coherent story to fit with the traits as you see them. The earlier traits colour the impression made by the later traits. You try to fit them in with your initial impression.
If I see Mary at a bar, drunk, smoking and with an array of shooters lined up in front of her, I will form a certain impression of her. If I see her at church the next morning (or more likely the next evening – and do not even ask what I was doing at bar) I might conclude she is a lost soul searching for God and that I should stay clear. If, however, I first saw her at Church, I might conclude that something traumatic had happened in the intervening period, temporarily affecting her behaviour, and that I might console her.
When you meet people at Church you typically see their good side. It is not that these people are lying or deceiving. That is merely how you act at Church. The problem, of course, is that you may give too much weight to this good impression. When you later encounter traits that would otherwise have put you off completely you will not only experience the urge to consider them differently, you will be unable not to.
Overtime, of course, one may hope that a truer picture of the person emerges, that you see them in more varied contexts, and thus that the initial impression will fade. It will also likely take some active thought and reasoning (System 2 work) to construct a model of the person beyond the impressions given by your thoughtless System 1. But taking this time is costly.
If you are like me, that is to say you are conservative and also much prefer efficiency, then you would want to see the undesirable traits of any potential partner first. If the bad stuff aren’t enough to put you off at first, then you’ve got a potential winner. But that’s just not how the world works. People present their best sides. I could go to bars (this is just a stereotype I’m utilising for effect) to find girls, of course, but I dislike bars, and I’d have to pick out the girls who seem likely also to be the virtuous church-going kind. This isn’t easy and bars are still hardly the best places to find people’s faults.
Of course, most people are not like me, I think. They do not require a semi-accurate model of their romantic interests before pursuing them. I would suggest a form of speed-dating in which people are only allowed to tell you about their faults, starting with the largest ones. But I suspect I’d be the only one that wants to utilise it, and even I would find it hard to tell the truth.