Individual differences in dispositional mindfulness and initial romantic
attraction: A speed dating experiment
, Christopher A. Pepping
, W. Kim Halford
School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Received 25 September 2014
Received in revised form 10 February 2015
Accepted 19 February 2015
Initial romantic attraction has important implications for the development of romantic relationships.
Much research demonstrates that physical attractiveness predicts initial romantic attraction. However,
less is known about the inﬂuence of individual difference characteristics on initial romantic attraction.
Here we examined whether dispositional mindfulness predicted initial romantic attraction beyond the
effects of physical attractiveness in a speed-dating experiment. Women were more attracted to men
higher in dispositional mindfulness, beyond the effects of physical attractiveness. Men were more
attracted to women who were more physically attractive, but female mindfulness did not inﬂuence male
initial attraction. This is the ﬁrst study to examine the role of dispositional mindfulness in predicting ini-
tial romantic attraction.
Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Being in a satisfying romantic relationship is a strong predictor
of psychological well-being (Demir, 2008; Diener, Gohm, Suh, &
Oishi, 2000), physical health (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001),
and longer life expectancy (Ross, Mirowsky, & Goldsteen, 1990).
The choice of relationship partner is therefore a decision that has
important implications. Much research has examined the role of
physical attractiveness on initial romantic attraction. More
recently, researchers have begun to examine individual difference
predictors of initial attraction. In the present research we investi-
gated whether dispositional mindfulness predicted initial romantic
attraction in a speed-dating experiment.
1.1. Predictors of initial romantic attraction
Initial romantic attraction refers to the ﬁrst interpersonal inter-
action between two individuals where feelings of romantic love are
experienced, accompanied by a desire to meet again. Much evi-
dence indicates that external factors such as physical attractive-
ness and socio-economic status inﬂuence initial attraction
(Eastwick, Luchies, Finkel, & Hunt, 2013; Guéguen & Lamy, 2012;
Pines, 2001). Meta-analyses reveal that the importance placed on
physical attractiveness has increased for both men and women
over the past ﬁfty years (Buss, Shackelford, Kirkpatrick, & Larsen,
2001). The importance of physical attractiveness is consistent with
an evolutionary explanation of initial attraction. Physical charac-
teristics, such as symmetrical faces, waist-to-hip ratios in women,
and shoulder-to-hip ratios in men, have been identiﬁed as signs of
health and reproductive viability (Gallup & Frederick, 2010), and
are thus perceived as desirable (Buss et al., 2001). More recently,
however, researchers have begun to examine internal psychologi-
cal predictors of initial attraction.
Research indicates that individual difference characteristics do
indeed inﬂuence initial romantic attraction. For example, kindness,
intelligence, humour (Buss & Barnes, 1986), emotional intelligence
(Atkinson, 2013), emotional stability (Gottman, 2011), con-
scientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion and low neuroticism
have each been associated with greater initial romantic attraction
(Figueredo, Sefcek, & Jones, 2006). Luo and Zhang (2009) used
speed dating methodology to examine whether a range of personal
characteristics predicted initial attraction. The strongest predictor
of attraction was physical attractiveness. However, there were also
a range of individual difference characteristics that inﬂuenced
attraction. Males were more attracted to females higher in
extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, and lower in
neuroticism and negative affect. However, the only predictor of
female attraction other than physical attractiveness was male
engagement in sports. In brief, there is clear evidence that individ-
ual difference characteristics inﬂuence initial attraction. However,
the initial stages of relationship development are complex, and
there are likely to be multiple inﬂuences on romantic attraction.
0191-8869/Ó2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (C.A. Pepping).
Personality and Individual Differences 82 (2015) 14–19
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It is therefore important to continue to examine factors that inﬂu-
ence initial romantic attraction. Here we propose that dispositional
mindfulness may be one such factor.
Mindfulness refers to ‘‘paying attention in a particular way: on
purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’’ (Kabat-Zinn,
1994, p. 4). Mindfulness involves non-judgemental awareness of
the present moment, without becoming consumed by difﬁcult
thoughts, emotions or experiences, but also without engaging in
efforts to avoid or suppress difﬁcult experiences (Brown & Ryan,
2003; Kabat-Zinn, 1990). There are individual differences in
dispositional mindfulness (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Research consis-
tently shows that higher mindfulness is associated with numerous
indices of psychological well-being (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell,
2007; Keng, Smoski, & Robins, 2011), including adaptive emotion
regulation (Arch & Craske, 2006; Creswell, Way, Eisenberger, &
Lieberman, 2007), self-esteem (Pepping, O’Donovan & Davis,
2013), and secure attachment (Pepping, O’Donovan & Davis,
2014). More recently, researchers have begun to examine associa-
tions between mindfulness and interpersonal outcomes.
1.3. Mindfulness and interpersonal outcomes
Theoretically, mindfulness should facilitate a relationally
focussed, less judgemental, and less experientially avoidant stance
to difﬁcult emotions that can arise in interactions with others and
in relationships (Wachs & Cordova, 2007). Consistent with this pro-
position, high dispositional mindfulness is associated with
increased relationship satisfaction (Barnes, Brown, Krusemark,
Campbell, & Rogge, 2007), and satisfaction with interpersonal
relationships more broadly (Pepping, O’Donovan, Zimmer-
Gembeck & Hanisch, 2014). Barnes et al. (2007) investigated the
impact of mindfulness on communication behaviors during a con-
ﬂict discussion task between partners and found that those higher
in mindfulness were lower in anger and hostility following the
conﬂict discussion. High dispositional mindfulness is also asso-
ciated with increased engagement and empathy, and reduced anxi-
ety in social situations (Dekeyser, Raes, Leijssen, Leysen, & Dewulf,
2008), and lower self-reported aggressiveness, hostility, and verbal
aggressiveness (Heppner et al., 2008). There is accumulating evi-
dence that dispositional mindfulness has beneﬁcial effects on
relationship outcomes and processes, including factors likely to
impact on the development of relationships, such as emotion reg-
ulation and communication. It is therefore likely that mindfulness
may impact on initial romantic attraction. In the present research,
we tested this hypothesis in an experimental speed-dating study.
1.4. Speed dating
Research into initial attraction has generally used descriptions
of hypothetical situations where individuals rate desirable quali-
ties in a potential partner. These studies are limited as they do
not evoke the same responses and emotions as in a real-life setting,
and do not capture features of conversations that could lead to
relationship development (Finkel & Eastwick, 2008). These lim-
itations have prompted the use of the speed dating methodology
to more accurately examine predictors of initial attraction. In
speed dating, individuals meet many people and interact with each
person for a brief period of time, usually three to eight minutes.
After the interaction, each person indicates whether they wish to
continue communication with this person. If both agree, contact
details are exchanged (Finkel, Eastwick, & Matthews 2007).
Kenny’s (1994) ‘zero acquaintance’ paradigm shows that individu-
als can make accurate judgements about a person’s personality and
intelligence in very brief periods of time. Speed dating is thus an
effective way to examine predictors of initial attraction, as it allows
for individuals to meet many potential partners in a short space of
time, and it imitates real-life situations.
1.5. The present research
High dispositional mindfulness is associated with satisfying
relationships, and positive interpersonal processes. However, no
research has investigated whether dispositional mindfulness inﬂu-
ences initial romantic attraction. The focus of the present study is
whether high dispositional mindfulness will be associated with
higher initial attraction ratings by individuals’ opposite sex partner
(partner effects) rather than whether an individual’s mindfulness
inﬂuences their own attraction ratings toward their partner (actor
effects). Although it is possible that individuals higher in mindful-
ness may be less judgemental and thus be less likely to evaluate
others harshly, it seems unlikely that an individual high in disposi-
tional mindfulness would universally rate others as more attrac-
tive. We therefore focus only on partner effects. It was predicted
that high dispositional mindfulness would be associated with
higher initial attraction ratings by individuals’ opposite sex part-
ner, beyond the effects of physical attractiveness.
Participants were 91 undergraduate students (Mage = 20.86,
SD = 3.17). Forty-four were male (Mage = 21.12, SD = 3.64) and
47 female (Mage = 20.60, SD = 2.61). Participants were informed
that the research was designed to investigate the psychology of ini-
tial romantic attraction.
The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ; Baer et al.,
2006) is a 39-item measure of dispositional mindfulness. It
assesses ﬁve facets of mindfulness, and these subscales can be
summed to yield a total score. In the present research we used
the total score as the aim was to examine global relationships
between mindfulness and initial attraction and, as other research-
ers have noted (e.g., Vollestad, Siversten, & Nielsen, 2011), the total
score provides a parsimonious account of the relationship between
mindfulness and other constructs. Internal consistency in the pre-
sent sample was high (
2.2.2. Initial attraction
The initial attraction scale assesses the degree to which Person
A is attracted to Person B (Lewandowski & Aron, 2004). The scale
consists of eight items, four that assess romantic or sexual attrac-
tion (e.g., How sexy is this person?’ and ‘How much would you like
to date this person?’) and four items that assess general attraction
(e.g., ‘Is this the type of person you would like to get to know bet-
ter?’). The questions were answered on a 9-point scale. Internal
consistency was high in the present sample (
2.2.3. Physical attractiveness
Upon arrival to the session, photos were taken of each partici-
pant, and these were rated by two independent assessors (one
male and one female) for physical attractiveness on a 9-point scale.
The inter-class correlation coefﬁcient (ICC) for the two raters was
.81, indicating high agreement. Mean attractiveness rating
P. Janz et al./ Personality and Individual Differences 82 (2015) 14–19 15
between the two assessors was used as the physical attractiveness
score for each participant.
Prior to the speed-dating sessions, participants completed an
online questionnaire that assessed dispositional mindfulness. The
questionnaire also contained a measure of adult attachment as a
predictor of initial attraction, which was included as part of a
broader program of research, unrelated to the present study.
Participants provided a code on the questionnaire which was used
to match questionnaire responses with data collected during the
speed-dating session. The speed-dating sessions occurred in a large
function room arranged with eight tables with a chair on either
side. Upon arrival, participants provided their 4-digit number,
and were photographed to allow for later coding of physical attrac-
tiveness. Participants were seated with males on one side of the
tables and females on the other.
Participants were then provided with instructions and informed
they could talk to the person seated opposite them about any topic
in the three minutes allocated. A bell signalled the beginning and
end of each 3-min interaction. Upon each ring of the bell, partici-
pants moved clockwise or anti-clockwise to their next seat to com-
plete the attraction scale about the person they had interacted
with immediately prior. This procedure was repeated for every
interaction until all participants had interacted with each person
of the opposite gender. If there was an imbalance in gender at
any session, individuals were asked to sit out for that particular
interaction when they did not have a partner to interact with.
Nine sessions were conducted with each session ranging from
eight to sixteen participants.
Multi-level modelling (MLM) was performed in MLwin 2.28
(Rasbash, Charlton, Browne, Healy, & Cameron, 2009) which is
designed for analyzing hierarchically structured data. MLM uses
maximum likelihood estimates to manage any missing data so that
the available data set can be fully maximized. The method of analy-
sis is also widely used in analyzing data that involves a dyadic
interaction, and can effectively examine clustered data (Atkins,
2005). Male attraction refers to the males’ attraction ratings of
females, whereas female attraction refers to the females’ attraction
ratings of males. The means, standard deviations and a correlation
matrix for the variables of interest in the male and female attrac-
tion data set are shown in Table 1 and Table 2, respectively.
3.1. Physical attractiveness
First, the control variable of physical attractiveness was entered
into the model to test for effects of physical attractiveness on
attraction ratings. The standardized coefﬁcients and standard error
values for all equations are presented in Table 3 and Table 4 for
male and female attraction ratings respectively. For male
attraction, female physical attractiveness accounted for a signiﬁ-
cant reduction in the residual deviance, x
(1) = 13.31, p< .001,
indicating that female physical attractiveness signiﬁcantly pre-
dicted male initial attraction ratings, z= 2.20, p< .001. Once stan-
dardized, b= 0.13, SE = 0.06, for every plus or minus one standard
deviation (SD) in physical attractiveness, male initial attraction rat-
ings increased or decreased by 0.13 SD. For females, there was no
signiﬁcant decrease in the residual deviance x
(1) = 3.46, p= .063,
indicating female initial attraction was not predicted by male
physical attractiveness. In brief, male attraction was positively
associated with female physical attractiveness, whereas female
attraction was not associated with male physical attractiveness.
3.2. Effects of mindfulness
Once physical attractiveness was controlled for, partner’s mind-
fulness scores were added into the model as the second equation.
The association between female mindfulness and male attraction
Means, standard deviations and correlations for male initial attraction, physical
attractiveness and mindfulness variables.
Mean SD 1234
1. Male mindfulness 127.35 14.36 1.00
2. Male initial attraction score 39.36 13.55 .18
3. Female physical
5.30 0.91 .04 .16
4. Female mindfulness 124.44 12.29 .03 .09 .05 1.00
Means, standard deviations and correlations for female initial attraction, physical
attractiveness and mindfulness variables.
Mean SD 1234
1. Female mindfulness 124.29 12.46 1.00
2. Female initial attraction
35.79 14.15 .01 1.00
3. Male physical
4.56 0.71 .06 .09 1.00
4. Male mindfulness 127.48 14.32 .03 .13
Variables, standardized coefﬁcients, and standard errors of signiﬁcant equations for
male initial attraction.
Variable Standardized coefﬁcients SE
Constant 29.42 4.90
Female physical attractiveness 0.13
Constant 15.04 9.08
Female physical attractiveness 0.12
Female mindfulness 0.11 0.06
Variables, standardized coefﬁcients, and standard errors of signiﬁcant equations for
female initial attraction.
Variable Standardized coefﬁcients SE
Constant 46.25 5.51
Male physical attractiveness 0.11 0.06
Constant 32.98 8.33
Male physical attractiveness -0.13 0.06
Male mindfulness 0.12
16 P. Janz et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 82 (2015) 14–19
was not signiﬁcant, x
(1) = 3.47, p= .062. When male mindfulness
scores were added there was a signiﬁcant decrease in the residual
(1) = 4.384, p= .036, indicating that male mindfulness
predicted female initial attraction ratings towards the male. Once
standardized, b= 0.12, SE = 0.06, this shows that for every one SD
increase in male mindfulness, woman’s initial attraction ratings
of males increase 0.12 SDs.
The aim of the present study was to examine whether disposi-
tional mindfulness predicted initial romantic attraction, beyond
the effects of physical attractiveness in a speed-dating setting.
This hypothesis was partially supported. High female physical
attractiveness predicted higher male attraction, but female mind-
fulness did not reliably predict male attraction beyond the effects
of physical attractiveness. Male physical attractiveness did not reli-
ably predict female attraction, but higher male mindfulness pre-
dicted higher female attraction beyond the effects of physical
attractiveness. In brief, males were attracted to physically attractive
women, whereas females were attracted to more mindful men.
The ﬁnding that male initial attraction was related to female
physical attractiveness is consistent with prior research (Buss
et al., 2001; Lee, Loewenstein, Ariely, Hong, & Young, 2008;
Pines, 2001), and is consistent with an evolutionary explanation.
Men value physical attractiveness of females as it is an indicator
of health and fertility (Feingold, 1990). This ﬁnding is also consis-
tent with prior speed-dating studies showing that physical attrac-
tiveness is a strong predictor of initial romantic attraction in males.
In the current study female initial attraction was not reliably
related to male physical attractiveness. This was unexpected as
some other studies (e.g., Luo & Zhang, 2009) have shown that male
physical attractiveness positively predicts female attraction. Across
studies the association between physical attractiveness and attrac-
tion is inconsistent for women’s attraction to men whereas there is
a consistent positive association of women’s physical attractive-
ness for men’s attraction to women (Eastwick & Finkel, 2008; Lee
et al., 2008). The power to detect small effects in the current
research is modest, which might explain the lack of a reliable
association. Consistent with the possibility that there might be
an inconsistent association of female attraction with men’s physi-
cal attractiveness, there was no reliable association in the current
study (in fact there was a non-signiﬁcant trend (p= .06) in the
opposite direction in the current study). It appears that, at least
in the current sample, females valued internal characteristics of
males more than physical attractiveness.
In the present study female attraction to men was related to
male mindfulness, whereas male attraction to women was not reli-
ably related to male mindfulness. It is important to note there was
a non-signiﬁcant trend for female mindfulness to predict male
attraction, and the lack of a reliable effect might reﬂect the modest
power of the study to detect a small association. The pattern of an
association of mindfulness to attraction for women but not men is
cross-sectional and so no causal conclusions can be made.
However, it is possible that women place greater emphasis on
internal characteristics like mindfulness than men for evolutionary
reasons. Women invest a great deal in the child birth and rearing
phases, and may value a male partner who can be attentive and
supportive throughout this process (Fletcher, Tither, O’Loughlin,
Friesen, & Overall, 2004). High dispositional mindfulness is asso-
ciated with positive relationship outcomes (Barnes et al., 2007),
and mindfulness interventions enhance couple satisfaction
(Carson, Carson, Gil, & Baucom, 2004), so it is possible women
are attracted to men displaying mindfulness as a marker of
potential relationship commitment and functioning.
If mindfulness does have an effect on attraction at least for
women, this raises the question of what behaviours might mediate
that association. Dispositional mindfulness is an internal charac-
teristic and therefore cannot directly inﬂuence female attraction.
As mentioned earlier, one possibility is that men higher in mindful-
ness may be more attentive to partners during the brief interac-
tions, and may have communicated more effectively. This is
consistent with prior research demonstrating that high disposi-
tional mindfulness is associated with increased attention (Keng
et al., 2011) and more effective communication in social situations
(Dekeyser et al., 2008; Heppner et al., 2008). It is also possible that
men higher in dispositional mindfulness were able to interact
without being unduly affected by potential anxiety arising from
the speed-dating situation. Much evidence indicates that mindful-
ness is associated with enhanced emotion regulation (e.g., Arch &
Craske, 2006; Keng et al., 2011) and less anxiety in social situations
(Dekeyser et al., 2008). Perhaps males higher in mindfulness were
better able to regulate any potential anxiety, and thus communi-
cate more effectively during the interactions. Future research
should investigate mediators of the association between high male
mindfulness and high female attraction. In particular, observa-
tional research that assesses how mindfulness translates into
behaviour that impacts on the other person during the interaction
would be beneﬁcial.
Results of the present research may have implications for
individuals who are dating, particularly males. Mindfulness can
be enhanced through the practice of mindfulness meditation, and
mindfulness meditation also enhances emotion regulation capacity
(Ortner, Kilner, & Zelazo, 2007). It is possible that men who experi-
ence anxiety in dating situations may beneﬁt from practicing
mindfulness to enhance their ability to effectively communicate
and engage with dating partners. However, future research needs
to examine the mechanisms of the mindfulness to attraction
association to understand if mindfulness has any causal impact
on romantic attraction.
4.1. Limitations and future directions
There are some limitations of the present research to be
acknowledged. First, as noted previously it is not possible to con-
clude that male mindfulness is causally related to female attrac-
tion. Clearly dispositional mindfulness reported before the speed
dating sessions cannot be altered by level of attraction by the
speed dating partners. However, covariates of mindfulness might
inﬂuence attraction. For example, high dispositional mindfulness
is associated with emotion regulation, experiencing more positive
affect and less negative affect, and low neuroticism (Brown & Ryan,
2003; Giluk, 2009; Keng et al., 2011). Thus, the possibility that
these covariates are responsible for the ﬁndings of the present
research, rather than mindfulness itself, cannot be ruled out.
Future research therefore needs to examine the relative impor-
tance of mindfulness and other individual difference characteris-
tics in the prediction of initial romantic attraction.
To assess whether mindfulness is causally associated with
attraction, it is necessary to manipulate mindfulness. Several stud-
ies indicate that experimentally manipulating mindfulness through
mindfulness induction procedures leads to a range of theoretically
relevant outcomes (e.g., Arch & Craske, 2006; Pepping, O’Donovan &
Davis, 2013). It would therefore be useful to examine whether
experimentally enhancing mindfulness leads to increased initial
attraction in a speed-dating setting. Research demonstrating that
mindfulness-based relationship enhancement has beneﬁcial effects
on relationship outcomes in established couples (Carson et al.,
2004) is certainly consistent with the notion that mindfulness is
causally related to relationship outcomes. However, experimental
research on initial romantic attraction is needed.
P. Janz et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 82 (2015) 14–19 17
Results clearly demonstrate that high male mindfulness pre-
dicts high female romantic attraction in a speed-dating setting.
However, it is unclear whether these results would hold across
situations. Although speed-dating mimics real-life situations,
future research should examine these associations in a variety of
contexts such as online dating websites and at parties. It is also
important to acknowledge that the sample consisted of under-
graduate university students primarily in their early twenties. It
is unclear how generalizable the results are to different age groups.
Although relationship formation typically occurs during these
years and it is therefore a useful age group to examine predictors
of romantic attraction, future research should examine these
associations across a range of age groups.
Future research should examine the behavioral mechanisms
underlying the association between high male mindfulness and
greater romantic attraction. Behavioral coding of interactions dur-
ing a speed-dating study may provide useful information regarding
what men higher in mindfulness are doing that inﬂuences female
The present study examined whether individual differences in
dispositional mindfulness inﬂuenced initial romantic attraction in
a speed-dating study, beyond the effects of physical attractiveness.
This was the ﬁrst study to investigate the relationship between
mindfulness and initial attraction. Female physical attractiveness
predicted greater male attraction ratings, but female mindfulness
did not predict greater male attraction, beyond the effects of physi-
cal attractiveness. Male physical attractiveness did not predict
female romantic attraction, but higher male mindfulness predicted
higher female attraction beyond the effects of physical attractive-
ness. In summary, males were attracted to physically attractive
women, whereas females were attracted to males higher in
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