The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Opinion > Society



College Students and the "Scientific Study of Love"

Tomonori Morikawa, Professor,
School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University

During the spring term of 2008, I taught a seminar and gave lectures entitled "Introduction to Mate Selection Theories", the first of its kind in the 125 year history of Waseda University. In this seminar, students answered a questionnaire and the resulting data obtained was used for this paper (The data set was limited to the responses from the Waseda students). I would like to analyze the love affairs of college students and the era of the "marriage hunting" that is expected to materialize in the near future.

I had expected that the number of students who would enroll in the seminar would number around 150 but, more than 800 applied. After screening applications, 553 were accepted. Based on the high level of interest, I understood that the students ostensibly had a "scientific" interest in love. Female students were overwhelmingly more interested in the subject and the enthusiasm demonstrated by these "Waseda girls" tells you that they may be very apprehensive about their love affairs and the "difficulties" of getting married. The male to female ratio for all of Waseda is 2:1, but the ratio of male to female in this class was 1:2.

This seminar was designed to scientifically analyze romantic feelings between men and women or, more specifically, the romantic feeling as defined in terms of evolution that allow women to have offspring through a "mating game." Going into the 21st century, a great deal of research has focused on the "human love" and the "mating game" (i.e., mate selection) in the fields of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. The study of human love has evolved and can be defined as an interdisciplinary study encompassing sociology, economics, political science, where students can learn the subject systematically and comprehensively.

The seminar was offered for two units of credit and I gave a dozen lectures. Based on my observations, three critical points can be highlighted. (Table 1 presents some of the interesting data).

Table 1: Questionnaire Results

  Male students (average) Female students (average)
Students who are currently dating a boyfriend/girlfriend 40.4% 47.0%
No. of boyfriends/girlfriends in the past 2.5 2.7
No. of boyfriends/girlfriends who broken-off the relationship 1.16 0.82
No. of days to recover from "break-up" 57 58
How do you rate your "charm"? (100 point scale) 45 41
How do you rate your personality? 57 51
College students are appearance-oriented

Students seem to believe that appearance and compatibility are critical in the dating game. They have not realized the importance of the other senses, such as smell, hearing, taste and touch, however. For example, many students make significant investments in clothing but don't spend money on orthodontic treatment, are unconcerned about bad breath (some students are smokers), don't spend much time presenting themselves attractively, etc. Although a question was asked in early summer (most of the students wore T-shirts), I found out that the average price of their summer clothes on that particular day was 64,000 yen for men and 88,000 yen for women. It seems that both men and women were more concerned about their outward appearance and wore expensive clothing, a significant difference from previous generations.

College students don't know their "market price"

Love and marriage can be defined from an economics point of view, as being a sort of barter or exchange, that is, "you" as a product have a "value", to gain access to the opposite sex. Many students seem not to have recognized that this kind of market-economy mechanism is functioning within this "dating game." Many students often claim that passion is critically important in their dating games, making light of their "asset value;" they are not trying to improve or raise their market value. If a man wants to find a love, for example, he must improve his asset value by improving his financial status or physical strength. The questionnaire results, however, showed that many students want to demonstrate a caring personality or high academic status (which they already have as students at Waseda University) but don't see a need to do anything more. (Table 1 hints about their overconfidence in charm and personality.) It is often said that when job hunting, they should learn to recognize that "can", not "want", is more important for them to be accepted or liked by the others.

3-Highs: Female student dilemma

Female Waseda students who are expected to have high income might experience difficulty with marriage. Many Waseda students find jobs in Fortune 500 companies and their lifetime income may reach 400 million yen. About 60% of the female students surveyed want their potential spouses to have a higher income that their own salaries. (See Table 2.) On the other hand, 90% of them to have graduated from universities and a half of those women want them to have graduated from prestigious universities such as, at least, Waseda, Keio and Sophia. There are many men, of course, who earn more than women and have graduated from these universities, but it is easy to speculate that successfully meeting those men, being liked and starting to date are significantly lower than meeting men without those virtues.

It was not so far in the past that the term "3-highs" (high-income, high-education, "high-height") were used to measure a man's attractiveness. Certainly, there are many men who have the "3-highs" and it works favorably to their advantage. If a woman has "3-highs", however, it results in an adverse effect and the number of men who have higher "3-highs" than the woman is much smaller; it is apparent that for a "3-high" woman to catch a man who has higher "3-highs" than she does becomes extremely difficult. If a woman wants to meet an "ideal" man to satisfy these requirements, therefore, she must employ special tactics: She must "enter" the "love-market" (and "marriage market") where those men gather. One out of five female students thinks that "...if I wait, a prince on a white horse will come..." but of course waiting will not result in an ideal love affair.

Table: Income that female students want a potential husband to earn (yearly salary)

There are more men who are not good at socializing with women, and more women who are actively participating in the business world. It is difficult for compatible men and women to find each other if they maintain an attitude of "woman waits for man to propose." This indicates that we are now in the era where it becomes necessary to actively participate in the "marriage hunting".

"Introduction to Mate Selection Theories" was designed so that students could learn for themselves objectively and recognize the importance of finding a spouse. College students live in an era when they have to execute special tactics such as above. I believe, therefore, that this type of seminar should be taught at other schools as well.

Tomonori Morikawa, Professor,
School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University

Professor, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University
Graduated from School of Political Science and Economy, Waseda University
M. A. from Political Science, Boston University
Ph. D, Political Science Department, University of Oregon,
Worked in various United Nations organizations (UN Development Program, International Fund for Agricultural Development)
Assistant Professor, Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho
Visiting Associate Professor, University of Oregon

Field of Expertise
Evolutionary Political Science, International Organizations, Japanese Politics

"Why am I attracted to that person? Introduction to the Scientific Study of Love"
"Why aren't there many good men in Japan? 21 reasons"
(Both by DISCOVER 21)