Does ambiguity promote liking?


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Is it true that familiarity breeds contempt? A psychology study published this year concludes that the answer is yes. It seems we are inclined to interpret ambiguous information about someone optimistically, assuming we will get along. We are usually let down, however, when we learn more.

A team of researchers, led by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, looked at online daters’ opinions of people they were about to meet for the first time and compared those ratings with another group’s post-date impressions. Before the date, based on what little information the daters saw online, most participants rated their prospective dates between a 6 and a 10 on a 10-point scale, with nobody giving a score below a 3. But post-date scores were lower, on average, and lots of people deemed their date a total dud.


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