You are not as Cute as you Think you are: Emotional Responses to Expectancy Violations in Heterosexual Online Dating Interactions

Abstract

Dating initiation is a challenging phase of heterosexual romantic relationship development, with men and women often having different expectations and interpretations of communicative cues. With online dating becoming increasingly popular, the challenges of relationship initiation are more apparent and may even lead to negative interpersonal interactions, such as online harassment. The present investigation employed expectancy violations theory to understand and explain perceptions of women’s responses to compliments in an online dating context. We predicted that due to general as well as gender-specific expectations for compliments and responses, when such expectations are violated, conflict and emotional reactions would arise. Using a sample of 413 U.S. undergraduate students, results indicated that women who negatively violate expectations by responding to a compliment using self-praise and agreement were generally evaluated more negatively than women who violated expectations in a positive way by disagreeing with the compliment and women who conformed to expectations by responding with “thank you.” Additionally, results showed that women who positively violated expectations were evaluated more negatively compared to women who conformed to expectations. Implications for expectancy violations theory and power in gendered online interactions are discussed.

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Correspondence to Maria DelGreco.

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DelGreco, M., Denes, A. You are not as Cute as you Think you are: Emotional Responses to Expectancy Violations in Heterosexual Online Dating Interactions. Sex Roles 82, 622–632 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01078-0

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Keywords

  • Online dating
  • Compliments
  • Expectancy violations theory
  • Sexual harassment