Michelle Ovalle

Major and Classification


Faculty Mentors

  • Professor Lynn Miller


  • Psychology, Communication

McNair Project

“Short-term relationships: Are partner preferences self-regulating emotional (and sexual) outcomes?”

Despite extensive research on the sexual mating strategies of men and women in short-term relationships, it is still unclear what men and women are seeking in a short-term partner, and why these specified preferences exist. Previous research suggests that sexual enjoyment is important in all relationships which involve sexual activity, but may be more exclusively important in short-term relationships. The biology and chemistry of sexual functioning indicates that sexual activity in short-term and long-term relationships involves a balance of excitation to inhibition. This model of arousal further suggests that the relationship in turn is affected by positive and negative affect (Goldstein, 2000). Do individuals seek attributes in partners that would self-regulate their emotional state? If so, do these attributes affect their emotional and sexual outcomes (Miller et al., 2003)? This study will determine if male and female subjects differ in their prioritization of qualities that decrease inhibitors (avoiding or decreasing negative affect) and/or increase excitation (approach or increase positive affect) when selecting mates in short-term relationships. This study will use an existing data set collected in 2001 from a sample of undergraduate students at the University of Southern California. Participants responded to questionnaires regarding the desirability of selected qualities for each of these relationships.