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Absence of Gating

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Absence of Gating

When you first meet a potential partner, there are a few things that you look at first before considering the deeper aspects of a person. Physical appearance is probably the most important feature that people notice first. Of course, it is an essential factor in forming romantic relationships (at least initially). How a person looks affects how you perceive them. If you are attracted to them and vice versa, you may be interested in an intimate relationship.

Examples of the absence of gating

The way a person sounds acts, and smells can also be an important factor in deciding whether or not someone can be a suitable partner for a romantic relationship. These factors are called gates and often act as barriers to romantic relationships. Self-disclosure is locked behind these gates, preventing people from revealing personal information about themselves and moving relationships forward (especially if they are not interested).

However, in online relationships, these barriers do not exist, which is called the absence of gates. The absence of gates has interesting implications for how romantic relationships progress compared to face-to-face encounters.

Gating Absence Virtual Relationships StudySmarterA gate, Flaticon

Diane met Craig online and shared many phone calls with him. They share an interest in video games and often spend hours playing online. However, Diane has only heard Craig’s voice and does not know what he looks or smells. Online relationships somewhat mute the usual social cues people face.

Diane built a romantic relationship with him by revealing a lot about herself (self-disclosure). She told her friends, and eventually, they decided to meet. When they met, Diane found that Craig was not as attractive looking as she had hoped, and she did not like the way he smelled either. Before the physical meeting, Diane was not exposed to these gates. They were absent, so she could build a relationship with Craig.

Absence of gating research

Hill et al. (1976) found that 55% of those who met face to face were still together after two years, only slightly more than half of the couples studied. Psychologists such as McKenna et al. (2002) believe that the absence of gates in online relationships leads to greater intimacy. They found that 71% of online relationships lasted more than 2 years, much more than their offline counterparts and a significant increase from the 55% Hill et al. (1976) suggested.

The ecological validity of the McKenna et al. (2002) study is quite high, but the data are based on self-report, so bias may occur (social desirability). However, we must keep in mind that the absence of gates also means that people can create online personas that differ greatly from their true selves. In some cases, this can go as far as catfishing, but it could also be positive for socially anxious and shy people as they can get to know someone without the pressure of meeting in person.

Catfishing is a recent term that refers to someone creating an online persona and dating people via the internet using this persona they often look, act, and dress differently than that persona in real life).

Evaluation of absence of gating in online relationships

Let’s look at some studies that evaluate the absence of gating in online relationships.

Baker and Oswald (2010)

This study interviewed 241 participants about their social media use and shyness. The questionnaires assessed Facebook use, level of shyness, perceived social support, loneliness, and friendship quality. They found a strong positive correlation between the level of shyness and Facebook use but no correlation between Facebook use and loneliness, suggesting that Facebook helps shy people overcome their shyness.

Subjective: are gates absent?

These days, we share a lot on social media, from videos to selfies and more. This means we can potentially see people’s characteristics that may have only been ‘gates’ noticed in face-to-face conversations in the past, such as tone of voice and facial expressions.

However, this depends on how much a person shares. Thus, the lack of gates in online relationships is a subjective factor. When someone shares more, you can see the ‘gates’ that can hinder attraction online instead of in person. Therefore, gates may not be absent in online interactions.

How do we define gates?

Many studies on gates describe characteristics that hinder initial attraction, such as appearance, voice, and body language. Therefore, the impact of gates on long-term relationships is unclear. Are gates limited to initial attraction, or might we encounter gates later in relationships?

For example, what if a year into a relationship, you notice that your partner smacks their lips while eating, and you are less attracted to them as a result? Is this a gate because it’s a trait you could not have figured out online? Or is it not a gate because the relationship has gone on too long?

The definition of gates is unclear, which is a drawback when studying their influence on online relationships. Communication is also an essential factor to consider with gates because some gates are rectifiable.

An absence of gates could be dangerous

Although some see the impact of the absence of gates on self-revelation as positive, the absence of gates can also lead to deception. People may present an image/persona that is not truthful. This could be dangerous as people may fall prey to this deceptive behaviour, especially if the person brings about an intimate relationship for nefarious reasons (e.g., blackmail due to increased self-disclosure, violence, fraud, and more).

Beta-bias

Buss (1989) found that men value good looks and younger-looking partners, whereas women prioritise resource-based traits. This finding suggests women are much more dependent on ‘gates’ than men, as men’s occupations and social status are often apparent from their online profiles. In contrast, women can only be judged in person by their appearance. Therefore, the absence of gates may affect women more than men.

Absence of Gating Buss StudySmarterAccording to the Buss (1989) study, the absence of gates may affect women more than men, Flaticon

Absence of Gating - Key takeaways

  • Gates are physical, nonverbal characteristics that can affect the initial attraction of people meeting face-to-face for the first time, such as physical attractiveness, smell, tone of voice, and body language.
  • McKenna et al. (2002) believe that the absence of gates in online relationships leads to greater intimacy.
  • The absence of gates in online relationships may positively affect people with social anxiety/shyness, as noted by Baker and Oswald (2010).
  • However, the absence of gates could be dangerous if a partner has malicious intentions, as self-disclosure exposes people to danger online.
  • Other criticisms of studying gates include beta bias and the fact that they are challenging to define scientifically.

Frequently Asked Questions about Absence of Gating

Gates are physical, non-verbal characteristics that may impede initial levels of attraction for people meeting for the first time, face-to-face, such as physical attractiveness, scent, tone of voice and body language. 

Gates could stop a relationship or attraction from forming. In online relationships, psychologists such as Mckenna et al. (2002) believed that the absence of gates in online relationships leads to greater intimacy, with 71% of couples who have a relationship online staying together after two years. The absence of gating seems to improve the stability of relationships.  

A virtual relationship is a relationship formed and maintained online.

Reduced cues theory is the idea that online relationships lack the physical cues we get in face-to-face interactions, such as tone of voice and body language. 

It refers to the absence of barriers in romantic relationships, i.e., when we cannot see specific characteristics of a person, which might impede attraction, such as the physical appearance of someone, their body language, and scent. 

Final Absence of Gating Quiz

Question

Give an example of a gate.

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Answer

Facial expressions are a gate as they could affect attraction and are unlikely to see in online interactions.

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Question

Why are gates absent in online relationships?

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Answer

Gates are things that hinder attraction in face-to-face encounters. While we can see some of these things online when we watch videos or video call a person, we encounter most gates  in person, such as body language and tone of voice.

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Question

Describe some research that supports the positive effect of the absence of gating in online relationships.

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Answer

McKenna and Bargh (1999) believe the absence of gates in online relationships leads to greater intimacy. They found that 70% of online relationships lasted more than two years, much more than their offline counterparts.

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Question

Describe Baker and Oswald’s study (2010).

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Answer

Baker and Oswald (2010) interviewed 241 participants about their social media use and shyness. The questionnaires assessed Facebook use, level of shyness, perceived social support, loneliness, and friendship quality. They found a strong positive correlation between the level of shyness and Facebook use but no correlation between Facebook use and loneliness, suggesting that Facebook helps shy people overcome their shyness.

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Question

Why does Buss’s 1989 study expose potential gender bias in the study of gating?

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Answer

Buss found that men value good looks and younger-looking partners, while women prefer resource-based characteristics. This finding suggests women are much more dependent on ‘gates’ than men, as men’s occupations and social status are often apparent from their online profiles. In contrast, women can only be judged in person by their appearance. Therefore, the absence of gates may affect women more than men.

Show question

Question

Why would the absence of gates in online relationships be dangerous?

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Answer

Because if we do not meet someone in person, it means they can create an online persona that may not be truthful. This could be dangerous for several reasons, including blackmail, assault and more.

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Question

Why would the absence of gates in online relationships be positive for shy people?

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Answer

Shy people could form relationships without the pressure of meeting someone in person and without confronting the fear of being rejected.

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Question

Who found a correlation between Facebook use and shyness?

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Answer

Baker and Oswald.

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Question

What is one negative of the study of gates in online dating?

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Answer

In an increasingly online world, many of the gates that would be limited to face-to-face interaction can now be seen online through videos, video calls, and voice memos. Gating now potentially has less impact on online relationships than in the past.

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Question

When did McKenna and Bargh suggest that the lack of gates in online relationships would lead to greater intimacy?

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Answer

In 1898.

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