Dating Study

Dating Study

Seeking, Sending, and Receiving Interest Cues: A Qualitative Study of Premarital Heterosexual Romantic Relationship Initiation

By Craig James Ostler

This research examined the process of initiating heterosexual romantic relationships. Using grounded theory methodology, this study explored that process during in-depth, semi-structured interviews over the course of five months. The sample consisted of 54 young adults (29 females, 25 males) who were not in a serious relationship.

A model of relationship initiation emerged from the analysis. This model describes the interaction needed for a romantic relationship to be initiated. Seeking, sending, and receiving interest cues emerged as salient in the initiation process. Properties and dimensions of interest cues are discussed, including initiation attempts and outcomes of those participants who did not use them. Further, interest cues were found to differentiate between social and mate selection relationships. This study provides a rich description of the process of heterosexual relationship initiation utilizing the words of the participants.

Looking for Dating Tips?




Initiation of heterosexual relationships has been the subject of much interest in the social relationship literature.[1] In addition, the study of initiation of relationships between young men and women who are in the dating and courtship stage of life has received attention in mate selection and social science theory and research. Much of this work has focused on social psychologists’ attempts to understand and predict the determinants of impression formation and the factors associated with initial attraction.[2]

                In an overview of the research on personal relationships Steve Duck wrote that individuals were concerned about their ability to present themselves as both attractive and available for a relationship with another individual.[3] He indicated that typically nonverbal signals such as smiling, gazing, and eye contact were used to communicate interest in initiating a relationship. Duck wrote earlier that the process of showing interest in another individual entailed subtle and skilled efforts.[4] Bell and Daly studied individuals taking an active role in influencing others to like them within the context of social relationships.[5] They concluded that an individual sends signals to others, to indicate his or her availability for, or interest in, a relationship with those other persons.

What are these signals, who seeks them, who sends them, how are they sent, and how are they received? The purpose of this research was to understand more fully the subtle dyadic process whereby potential heterosexual partners attempted to ascertain if the other was interested, if a relationship were possible, and how the partners demonstrate this interest reciprocally. This process was studied by means of a qualitative analysis of interviews with young adults who were interested to a greater or lesser degree in beginning new romantic heterosexual relationships.



Site and Sample

The data consisted of multiple interviews of 54 young single male and female adults, who were students at Brigham Young University (BYU). All participants were either recently enrolled freshman or had recently returned to the university following a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The female cohort was comprised of 17 first-semester freshmen and 12 recently returned LDS missionaries. The male cohort was comprised of 10 first-semester freshmen and 15 recently returned missionaries. The original sample was randomly selected from the university student body by computer, but other participants were added who were either roommates or dating partners of the original sample. Also, some participants were selected from students enrolled in general education courses taught by the author. Since the purpose of this research was to study the context and processes by which people initiate contact and begin relationships, the sample consisted of participants who were not already involved in serious relationships when the study began.

The average age of the freshmen was 18 years; the age range of the returned missionaries was 21 to 23 years. The freshmen had recently enrolled at BYU; the returned missionaries were either beginning their studies or returning to their second through fourth year of university studies.


All participants were BYU students and active members of their faith. Thus, participants were expected to adhere to strict moral standards that differed from typical American young adults. However, it was assumed that while the specifics of the process may differ between these LDS young adults and their non-LDS counterparts, the general process of initiation would not. Research on American Latter-day Saints has generally shown that they are quite similar to other Americans on a number of socio-demographic and familial characteristics. Holman=s study of courtship among religiously active LDS young adults suggests that they proceed through the courtship process in fairly typical American manner, but add unique LDS twists to the process.[6] Thus, it was assumed that the process of initiating a romantic relationship would have similar general characteristics, with slight variations added because of their membership in a unique religious subculture.

Procedures for Data Collection

This study utilized a qualitative research design. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to examine the acquaintance process. Each of the participants was interviewed three times, and each interview was approximately one month apart. During the following semester a discriminate sample was selected according Strauss and Corbin’s directive to “maximize opportunities for verifying the storyline,”[7] at which time a fourth interview was conducted. In total, 80 female and 68 male interviews were available for analysis from the longitudinal study, and an additional 6 female and 9 male interviews served as the discriminate sample.

Data Analysis

                Analysis was conducted utilizing the grounded theory method. “The grounded theory approach is a qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of procedures to develop and inductively derived grounded theory about a phenomenon.”[8] Analysis began with the first round of interviews by reading and rereading the data. The information that each participant provided was constantly compared with the information gained from other participants. The transcribed interviews were coded using Strauss and Corbin’s method of open, axial, and selective coding.[9] From this coding, a descriptive report was written that was organized according to the thematic patterns that emerged during the analysis.



The principal finding of this research is that the process of initiation of romantic heterosexual relationships focuses on the communication of interest cues between individuals. Interest cues are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors that participants seek, send, or receive as they initiate interaction with a potential heterosexual partner. Thus, individuals seek and receive interest cues from, and send interest cues to others when they consider potential partners for a relationship. This communication of interest cues precedes the formal initiation of the relationship in the mate selection process. The formal initiation was generally an invitation to join together for some type of social activity or to go on a date.

Seeking, Sending, and Receiving Interest Cues

Through analysis, several interest cues emerged: a) interest seeking cues, b) interest sending cues, and c) interest cues in the form of attraction strategies. Interest cues and attraction strategies needed to be received by the person to whom they were communicated. The first interest cue asked, “Are you interested in or attracted to me?” The second cue communicated, “I am interested in or attracted to you.” The third interest cue served to influence another person to desire to initiate a relationship. The participants did not necessarily choose one of these interest cues to the exclusion of the others. All three may be present in initiating a relationship. Last, for initiating to proceed, interest cues must be received, acknowledged, and reciprocated.

As an aside to our findings regarding the initiation of romantic relationships, the sample of religiously conservative participants revealed an interesting fact. That is, the female participants indicated that they felt greater freedom to show interest in potential relationship partners within the social milieu of Brigham Young University than they had felt outside of that society. The reasons for this conclusion pointed to their desire to have chaste relationships with dating partners and yet to be enabled to send interest cues liberally. They explained that in their experience of sending interest cues in situations outside of the conservative norms of BYU the male recipients often misinterpreted cues. Without the common moral standard, interest cues and attraction strategies were misinterpreted to indicate that they were inviting sexual interaction. However, within the religiously conservative social setting of BYU the female participants felt free to send flirtatious signals without the added baggage of those cues carrying sexual overtones.

The primary reason given for seeking interest cues was to avoid possible rejection in attempting to initiate relationships. For example, Clark explained why he felt he needed to receive interest cues before he would ask a girl for a date:


Most guys have this ego complex and I suppose they don’t like to be rejected and so they’re probably going to make sure that the girls they’re going with are going to say yes before they ask. I mean they’re just, unless they are really brave, so the problem is asking…


                Interviewer: So guys have an ego complex that makes it so they don’t want to be rejected?

Clark: Yeah. Well, it’s like, and this is true for everyone including me, they don’t like to be rejected and if they are rejected, their self-esteem goes down. And that’s not exactly a pleasant thing. Um, so they are just cautious when they ask someone… They want to make sure that the person they ask is going to say yes before they ask.

Interest cues also have a dimension of being indirect or direct cues. The more indirect cues were often subtle: these were described as “bits of attention” by one of the participants. These indirect cues communicated and/or created interest. Often they were exchanged very casually so that the senders were not embarrassed by rejection of their interest cues. These were cues such as smiling, eye contact, touching, verbal teasing, and hints of desire to initiate a relationship. For example, Trent, a male freshmen, indicated that he does nothing more than say “Hi,” as a means of communicating interest and seeking a response from another person. Predictably, the meaning of such an interest cue may easily be missed by the intended receiver.

More direct cues included behaviors such as asking another person for their telephone number, asking them on a date, or inviting another person to a group activity. For example, Chad described the interactional strategies he and a prospective partner used:


I was in the library just minding my own business, studying and stuff and a girl sits down maybe like in that chair kind of diagonal from the table. I look up and she looks up and it’s like, your eyes meet and you’re like, “Oh man, OK, here it goes again.” You are just studying your stuff, and I mean, while you’re studying, every once in a while you look up and she will look up right then or like right after and then I will look down and smile and stuff and she will smile back. I will go over there and say, “Hey, what is your name?”


                Interviewer: So, you just went around the table?

Chad: Yeah, I just said, “Hey, I’ve been looking at you now for…” no not like that, I mean, you know, “We have been catching each other’s eye now for a good half hour and I would like to know where you’re from,” and all that stuff. So she told me and I got her phone number.

In order to emphasize the subtlety involved in the use of interest cues, note Jason’s explanation of receiving interest cues sent to him by a female with whom he later initiated a relationship.


Interviewer: Could you tell that she wanted to go out with you?

Jason: At first, yeah, I think I could.

Interviewer: How?

Jason: I don’t know. She always, well no, I guess like during dinner I’d look up and she was looking at me. I don’t know. I guess that’s a sign.

Interviewer: So looks?

Jason: Yeah, she’d look at me, and smile, and then I’d smile too. And then just talking, too. When there was a group of us, she would tease me a little bit and stuff like that. And joke around with me, and I’d joke back. Have fun.

The pattern, therefore, was for one person (P) to begin giving attention to or to send interest cues to another individual (O). In turn, P sought to detect interest cues coming from O. These attentive behaviors were often interpreted by O to be interest cues. That is, O recognized the attention that they received from P. Consequently, O then sent or did not send interest cues in return. If O showed interest, then P pursued the initiation of the relationship further.

Third-Party Involvement


Relationship initiation could also involve third parties. Participants most commonly utilized their roommates and friends to be the messengers of their interest cues and at times to initiate dates with others. This strategy involved participants asking one or many of their friends to set them up with someone specifically or anyone in general. Some preferred using a third party as a leading strategy for their use of interest cues. John, a returned missionary, related, “Actually, most of the dates I’ve had are ones that have been set up by other people.” The interest conveyed by the third party could be varied. That is, the interest was specifically directed to one individual, or a broader interest in initiating relationships was conveyed on a general level. Broader cues were indicative of those who sought general associations and often initiated several relationships within the same time period or desired to simply socialize. Other individuals utilized a third party to aid in the initiation of relationships that could be more serious. The phenomena of roommates setting each other up on dates did not need to be reciprocal. In other words, an individual being set up on a date by friends or roommates did not feel obligated to return the favor.

Perceptions of Interest Cues

Participants viewed strategies differently from one another. Some felt that open, direct interest cues were aggressive. Others felt it was important to be clear in letting potential partners know they were interested in dating them. Janet shared a few of the phrases she employed along with the results and her reasons for using these phrases:


I ran into him on campus and we started to talk. I’m like, “Hey, well, we should go do something sometime… Hey, you’ll have to call me and you’ll have to come over and we’ll have to kind of do something.” He asked me out a week and a half later. If he asks me out again, it will probably be the same reason just because he knows that… you know I made it clear that if he asks me out, I would say, “Yes.”


Other females used subtle verbal hints to communicate their interest. These are expressed through simple compliments such as “You’re cool,” “I like your cologne,” or “You look great today.” According to participants, the important element of the communication was making sure the male knew they were interested in dating him and making sure he felt comfortable asking them out.


Interest Cues as Attraction Strategies

Thus far, the findings have focused mainly on the interest cues that were sought, sent, and received. Some of these interest cues were attraction strategies, because their purpose was, as the designation indicates, a strategy to attract another person into a relationship. Some participants realized that they needed to utilize interest cues as a means to attract others. For example, one female participant observed:


Well, you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t do anything! You know? I’ve just realized if you want something, you kind of have to go after it because most times it’s not just going to come to you by luck.


Although males and females may use attraction strategies, generally only the females mentioned using them. Most often, a female desired to attract the interest of a male. Females mentioned giving attention to the way they looked, particularly taking time to fix their hair and choose their clothing.

Janet was aware that she was not going to attract males by her physical appearance alone. She viewed the use of attraction strategies as a need, if she were to influence a male to be interested in her.



I try to get to know that person because I don’t think I’m the cutest girl in the world, and so I don’t think the first thing that a guy looks at me and says, “whoa, she’s a babe. I’d like to take her out!” I know I have to use my personality. I feel like that’s my strong point. And so I try to show that off. And so I go and I try to meet the guy and I try to talk, and I guess dazzle him with my personality in hopes that, you know, he would, you know, maybe be interested, or at least start a friendship that could lead somewhere else. And then I also… you know, you drop clues like… “Oh, yeah, we’ll have to do something sometime.” And I only do that if I know that I have somewhat of a chance. If I know he’s not interested at all, then I don’t do that. I just keep trying to… build a relationship of trust there. Try to build a friendship or a base where you can start and then hope that will continue for us.


Change in Interest Cues Over Time

Interest cues changed to accommodate the dating environment, the individuals whom participants were interested in dating, and the situation. In addition, participants began or stopped using interest cues at various times during the process. Thus, it appears that specific interactional strategies can be temporary or continuous.

Melanie was an example of one who stopped and started using interest cues. In addition, her experiences illustrate the outcomes of using or not using interest cues. Before serving a mission, she had been a very active dater. She described herself as an active, flirting, attractive, thin blonde, in really good shape, from California. Following her mission, she felt that she had lost some of her skills of attracting males. She had gained weight and didn’t give as much attention to her physical appearance. She did not return to the apartment complex she knew was a social hot spot. She felt resentful that she would need to give “bits of attention” to males in order for them to be attracted to her. She felt that males should be attracted to her because of her personality and spirituality. In sum, for about a year, she stopped using interest cues she had previous used. As a result, she had been on about three dates during the year at BYU following her mission. She described some of the reasons she changed her attitude and began to use interest cues again:



I guess I just realized that boys are different than girls. That boys have more of a visual stimulation and it just clicked one day… what boys are attracted to [and] that I’m not like that… I thought, “Oh well, I can get up earlier, and do my hair a little nicer.” That’s when I started. I went and got my hair lightened. I tanned a little bit. I started jogging, got more toned, had lost about ten pounds. Geri and I started doing stuff together and I would meet people through her… And that gave me the confidence… Um, I had heard that roommates would tell their other roommates about, “hey, I would like to go out with him.” So I started doing that with Geri or with my roommate, Erika… And maybe little bits of attention where I could make comments to boys.


Learning of Interest Cues

Several participants suggested they had learned to use interest cues, especially attraction strategies. Most individuals learned by watching others or by receiving instruction from others. Friends, roommates, family, and social experiences served as interest cue teachers. Others learned by personally observing the influence of certain words and actions on initiating relationships, or by asking opposite sex friends what attracted them to others.

Participants also learned interest cues in group chat sessions among friends or roommates. This was especially true of female roommates, among whom the topic of dating was commonly the focus of discussion. Female participants laughed, when asked what they talked about. They collectively replied, “Well, we surely aren’t talking about what we learned in chemistry or how we did on a test.” What has been portrayed as “girl” or “guy” talk is often the exchanging of interactional strategies dealing with the seeking, sending, and receiving interest cues.

Many participants had learned by misreading interest cues in the past. For them, experience was often the best teacher. Others learned that they needed more skill in understanding the interest cues they received. Miscommunication was a problem for participants on both the sending and the receiving end of interest cues. Derek was concerned about repeating his past mistakes in interpreting the cues he received:



…because I don’t want to read things into it. I’ve made that mistake a few times and been burned. So I just kind of go, “Well.” Guys can never read girls and girls can never read guys it seems like. Cause I don’t want to read things into it but I don’t know if that’s what she wants.


Interest Cues in Relationship Continuation and Consolidation

   Duck suggested that researchers:


should attend to the management and process issues that surround the “consolidation” of relationships from first encounter to a second encounter, a very surprising omission from present research on attraction. How do people negotiate the business of turning a first date into a second date? What do they say? What strategies are employed? What cues are central? What talk is used? How is it done? We must move beyond accounts of relationship development that simply slide over the mechanisms of such processes.[10]


While the main interest of this study was on the use of interest cues in first encounters, some of the respondents noted how they send cues to show interest in continuing a relationship. Following the initial asking for a date, participants expressed their need for potential partners to continue to send signs that they were interested in them. That is, participants desired additional assurances before pursuing a second date and further initiation of the relationship.

Jennifer recognized that she needed to say things at the end of the date to signal a change in her feelings about continuing the date.


He asked me out; I went out. I said, “Thank you. I did enjoy myself.” Let’s see. What did I say? “I had fun. We’ll have to do this again.” …So he ended up asking me out again. I went again, with him, but that was when he just loaded all this stuff on me, and it wasn’t a fun night at all. And I told him thank you. I said, “Thank you for tonight.” …And I said, I just said, thank you. And I didn’t really let him know that I wanted to go out again. Interesting… and I haven’t seen him since.



Participants were aware that strategies are important in continuing a new relationship. As Janet, a returned missionary, related a dating experience, she expressed concern over her inability to send interest cues. She recounted her conversation with her roommates when she returned from a date:


“Well, I hope he asks me out again.” And they [the roommates] are like, “Oh, he will. You didn’t do anything wrong.” And I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t do anything right either.”


It seems apparent that interest cues were an integral part of the process and using them or not using them correctly was a concern. Janet also told of another of her dates, when she had used interest cues to ensure that the male knew she wanted to go out again.


When he brought me home, I told him, I said, “Yeah, that was fun. You should call me again and we’ll have to do something else.” And so, I mean, he knows that I would be receptive, if he asked me out again.


Nonuse of Interest Cues by Some Participants

Several participants did not mention interest cues. The absence of any mention of interest cues served as a contrast to those participants who were very involved in their use. Others mentioned interest cues, but they did not use them. Several reasons for not using interest cues emerged from the analysis: a) participants chose not to use them, b) they did not recognize the importance of cues, and c) they did not have skill in using interest cues.

Those who chose not to use interest cues gave several reasons. Some participants informed the interviewers that they were not utilizing the interest cues because they were not interested in anyone. For example, several of the freshmen males were not dating. Generally, they attribute the lack of dating to the fact they were soon going to leave the university for two years to serve a mission for the LDS Church. Scott summed up the responses of this group in his explanation of why he was not dating:

I didn’t really even date that much in the first semester, just because I’m going to be going on a mission, and so it just doesn’t seem… I mean, I see girls, I’m like, “Oh, you know, I’d really like to date her.” And then I’m just like, “Well, is it really worth it?” I mean, how well can I really get to know them? I’m just going to leave on my mission soon. So I would say that’s probably the number one deterrent. And the second one is I’m probably just lazy. (Laughs.) That’s probably the second one.

Some females did not use interest cues because they felt that males should be the more aggressive party in initiating heterosexual relationships. Kristi had not dated after six weeks at school. She was going out for the first time the evening of this interview.

Interviewer: What are your opportunities for dating?

Kristi: I suppose they could be better if I was, if I tried. But I just don’t really try.

Interviewer: What do you have to do to try?

Kristi: I could handle being more friendly. I should be, I guess, but I let them more or less come to me, and I don’t know if that’s bad. Like I said, that’s how it always was.

Personality traits may influence the nonuse of interest cues. In particular, shyness may impede the sending of interest signals. Dannette had one date in the first five to six weeks of school. Her attitude at this time was to wait for the male to initiate the relationship.

Interviewer: Well, how do you usually make contact with the guy, or let the guy know that you’re interested in him?

Dannette: Actually I don’t. They’re the ones that always begin. I’m too shy to start it. They usually just sit down and start talking away. “O.K., I’ll talk.”


Interviewer: That’s what you find is the most common strategy with a guy?

Dannette: Well, Beth [a friend] says, “Don’t do that because they’re not always going to come up and talk to you.”

Others chose not to use interest cues because of a negative perception of the cues themselves. Indeed, those who chose to use interest cues and those who chose not to use interest cues often viewed using these cues differently. One reason given by females for not using the cues was that they felt manipulative. One female participant related:

I don’t know. There’s just a lot of… there’s a lot of tactics. It just depends on the person. See, I hate to play games, and I don’t… I’m not one to play games. If they’re a real strategic person like that, well, they’ll get what they want, because they know how to play the right games.

In talking about her roommate, whom she felt was a very successful dater, this same female returned missionary reported:

She knows how to treat men, and she knows how to manipulate them, to be honest. She knows how to get what she wants out of a man, and how to get a date. She’s the one that taught me, if you want something, ask for it. And she can. She gets whatever she wants. It’s so fun to just sit and watch her. She can get whatever she wants. She knows how to give the right nonverbal cues.

In one of the interviews, a female returned missionary referred to those females that used interest cues as “flirts” or “cling-ons” and then elaborated by explaining that she just couldn’t be that aggressive. Several times during the course of four interviews she referred to herself as “not very socially active.” When the interviewer pursued the notion of “flirts,” she clarified:

I just couldn’t go up to him and be a big flirt, and like hang on him.

Interviewer: Does it work?


Participant: It does. I think it works. Because I see other girls doing it and guys fall for it, big time, and they ask them out. Like the girls who do that are the ones who get asked out all the time. At least that’s how it appears to me.

Interviewer: Why couldn’t you do it?

Participant: I just can’t respect that at all, for some reason. Those girls that do that just make me crazy. It seems like they’re kissing up to a guy. Like brushing up his male ego, just to get asked out! I don’t know it just seems like you should just be good friends; that you can do things together without having to do that kind of stuff.

                Associated with the nonuse of attraction cues is the lack of confidence in using them. Some participants did not use interest cues because they felt they did not have the same skill level in using the cues as others they had observed. Janet explained her situation in contrast to that of other females: “They know what to do because they’ve had a lot of practice.” Similarly, participants who lacked skill in using interest cues to initiate relationships commonly did not have skill in interpreting the signals that others sent to them. Carina, a female returned missionary, did not understand interest cues. When asked how she knows that a male is interested in initiating a relationship, she said:

I don=t know. (Laughs.) Well, I don=t know it in the beginning. I can—you can tell, if they continually ask you out, or if they do things that show that they are. But as far as, like, at the beginning of a relationship, I don=t know how to tell, which is really confusing.


Through the use or nonuse of interest cues, the participants did or did not initiate romantic heterosexual relationships. In addition, the skill, lack of skill, or initiative in communicating interest or non-interest was an important element in initiating and continuing relationships. Some participants who were not dating seemed to be in a quandary over why they did not date. At the same time these participants did not mention any strategies used to send the message to others they were interested in dating. Non-dating female interviewees were notably reluctant to communicate to males in such phrases as “You will have to call me,” “We ought to go out some time,” or “You will have to come over.”

Implications for Research and Theory

                Seeking, sending, and receiving interest cues figured prominently in the initiation of heterosexual relationships. There are several theoretical possibilities of interactional behaviors, but not every possible scenario emerged from the data. However, the scenarios of attempted relationship initiation that did emerge allowed in turn for the theoretical model to emerge. Figure 1 illustrates the initiation of romantic heterosexual relationships through the interaction of interest cues. In this model, the two individuals are labeled P and O (see Figure 1).

                In the first level scenarios, P acts in isolation of interaction with O. There is no relationship initiation because O is not involved. For example:

PA: P unilaterally seeks interest cues without sending or receiving them.

PB: P seeks and receives interest cues without sending them. The receiving is an erroneous perception of P since O is not interacting.

PC: P seeks and sends interest cues, but does not receive interest cues.

In each of the above scenarios no relationship initiation takes place because of no interaction between P and O

                In second level scenarios, both P and O are considered in the interaction. An explanation of each scenario would include a complexity of possibilities. I will explain a few of the possibilities and allow the model to enhance theoretical understanding of the possibilities in approaching relationship initiation.


PA; OA:   P and O both seek interest cues, but neither sends nor receives interest cues. They both are attracted to each other, but both feel that the other person needs to show interest first. As a result no relationship initiation takes place.

PC; OF:   P seeks and sends interest cues, but does not receive them; O sends interest cues, but does not seek them nor receive them.

Each of the three areas of seeking, sending, and receiving interest cues has added dimensions of the strength and clarity of the signals that are sent or received. In such a scenario it may be that the sending of interest cues is so subtle and low in communicative value that neither participant in the interaction is able to pick up on the meaning of the interest cues that were sent. Another possibility of this scenario is that the sending methods of P are low in shared meaning of the interest cues with O. This could be the outcome of P or O attributing low communication value to the interest cues that each sends or because the ability of either or both to receive and interpret the meanings of the interest cues that were sent was low. Again, no relationship initiation takes place.

PG; OG:   Both P and O seek, send, and receive interest cues. Again the interaction is dimensionalized by the strength and clarity of the signals that are sent by each of the participants in the interaction. In this case, it will be assumed that the scenario portrayed includes sufficiently strong interest cues and shared meaning of those cues. In such a scenario, a relationship would be initiated by the interaction that takes place in the use of interest cues.


                Initiation of heterosexual relationships takes place in those scenarios that (a) involve both individuals, (b) both individuals send interest cues and (c) both individuals receive interest cues. Such scenarios are included in PG,E; OG,E. In such cases, seeking for interest cues enhances the receiving of the interest cues that is found in the PG; OG interaction of the model. Further, the sending of interest cues includes those cues that are attraction strategies. In such scenarios, the sender is not only communicating interest in another, but also attempting to influence the other to be interested in the sender.


                This research opens up new ideas and perspectives on the initiation of romantic heterosexual relationships in the mate selection process. The methodological approach of a qualitative grounded theory allowed the discovery of how this theory can be applied to complex real life events and processes. This study provides a rich description of the process of heterosexual relationship initiation by utilizing the words of the participants. In addition, a model of relationship initiation emerged from the analysis. This model describes the interaction necessary for a relationship to be initiated. The concepts of seeking, sending, and receiving interest cues emerged as salient in the initiation process.

Furthermore, this study supports Holman’s findings by showing that Mormon youth go through a developmental courting process in a similar way with other American youth.[11] There is an acquaintance period, increased interaction and dependency, and finally a commitment to marriage. However, as Holman suggests, participants in this sample tend to view this process differently than those outside their faith. That is, because of their religion’s emphasis on commitment, these youth see themselves in the process of making a commitment rather than simply assessing compatibility. This attitude toward commitment also influences the way the attempt to initiate and experience romantic relationships.


[1] Steve Duck, Relating to Others (Bristol, England: Open University Press, 1988).


[2] George Levinger, “Development and Change,” in Close Relationships, eds. H. H. Kelley, et al. (New York: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1983), 315-359; B. I. Murstein, M. G. MacDonald, and M. Cereto, “A Theory of the Effect of Exchange Orientation on Marriage and Friendship,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 39 (1977): 543-548.


[3] Steve Duck, Relating to Others.


[4] Steve Duck, Friends for Life: The Psychology of Close Relationships (Brighton: Harvester, 1983).


[5] R. A. Bell and J. A Daly, “The Affinity-seeking Function of Communication,” Communication Monographs 51 (1984): 91-115.


[6] Thomas B. Holman, “Commitment Making: Mate Selection Processes Among Active Mormon American couples,” in Mormon Identities in Transition, ed. Douglas J. Davies (London, New York, NY: Cassell, 1996), 125-132.


[7] Anselm L. Strauss and Juliet Corbin, Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1990), 187.


[8] Strauss and Corbin, 24.


[9] Strauss and Corbin, 61-74, 91-142.


[10] Steve Duck, Meaningful Relationships: Talking, Sense, and Relating (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), 158.


[11] Holman, 125-132.


Craig James Ostler is an associate professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. He received a Ph.D. in Family Science in 1995. His focus in family research deals with concerns in mate selection and marital quality studies. 




One thought on “Dating Study”

  1. Pingback: How to Get a Guy to Ask You Out 101 :: How to Find a man now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *