Cooperative courtship: Helping friends raise and raze relationship barriers

Joshua M. Ackerman, Douglas Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Do people help each other form romantic relationships? Research on the role of the social environment in relationship formation has traditionally focused on competition, but this article investigates novel patterns of cooperation within courtship interactions. Drawing on a functional/evolutionary perspective, women are predicted to cooperate primarily in building romantic thresholds and barriers; men are predicted to cooperate primarily in achieving romantic access. In support of these predictions, four studies reveal that people consistently perceive cooperation, report cooperative behavior, and make cooperative decisions in romantic situations. People also provide the opposite pattern of help to opposite-sex friends from that provided to same-sex friends, suggesting that assistance is flexibly tuned to differences in the romantic selectivity of recipients. Cooperative courtship is revealed to be a commonly used set of mating strategies by which people functionally tailor aid to promote both their own and their friends' romantic relationship interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1300
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Cooperation
  • Courtship
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Helping/prosocial behavior
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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