Publication Date

Summer 2017

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Qin Zhao (Director), Dr. Sally Kuhlenschmidt, and Dr. Frederick Grieve

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The purpose of this study was to increase understanding of the initial screening process that occurs during dating interactions, and to measure the perceptions of different communication styles that individuals use during such interactions. A review of current literature focused on attractiveness of potential mates, ambivalent sexism theory, gender stereotypes, and communication theory. The present study examined how individuals view others’ approaches in initial dating interactions, and which of these approaches are most effective for increasing the target’s interest in spending time with the pursuer. A pilot study involving 45 undergraduate psychology students from Western Kentucky University was conducted to evaluate the validity of the Dating Initiation Questionnaire (DIQ), which was created for this study. In the final study, one hundred and fifty two undergraduate psychology students from Western Kentucky University completed measures of sexism, social desirability, and dating initiation preference. Results showed that both communication theory and ambivalent sexism theory were relevant in dating initiations. Consistent with previous communication research, assertive communication was rated as more effective than aggressive and passive communication in the initial interactions that occur in heterosexual dating initiations. This suggests it is best to use assertive communication as a first choice in dating interactions. Further analyses showed that females were more likely to rate assertive and passive initiations as more effective than aggressive dating initiations, while males were more likely than females to rate aggressive initiations as more effective than passive initiations, and to rate aggressive initiations as more effective than assertive initiations. Stronger ambivalent sexist beliefs were associated with higher ratings for aggressive dating initiations. Therefore, individuals who held negative attitudes toward non-traditional women and positive attitudes toward gender stereotypical women preferred aggressive dating initiations. Such individuals may approach others in an aggressive manner. One could argue that, to prevent such harassment, individuals should be educated about communication styles and gender equality. Future research should focus on applying such interventions to males and females, and on revising the intervention to suit individuals with sexist beliefs toward women and men.


Clinical Psychology | Gender and Sexuality | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Social Psychology