After 40, maximum age preferences for most categories remain lower than their own age.Thus the rule for maximum ages is fairly ineffective at capturing what men actually believe is acceptable. Now let's apply the rule to actual dating behavior by examining George Clooney’s dating habits.Women’s preferred minimum partner age: Below are the data from Buunk et al.’s (2000) study on women’s minimum age preferences; the rule’s age calculations are represented by the solid line.
The rule underestimates women’s reported preferences in their 20s, but the gap between reports of what is socially acceptable and the rule itself widen over time. Let’s take a look at Demi Moore, who at times has been criticized for dating men who differ substantially from her own age.
As you can see from the graph, one partner exceeded the rule’s calculated acceptable maximum age, while Ashton Kutcher’s age fell short of the socially-acceptable minimum age when they first started dating in 2003.
Now we can see how well the rule corresponds with people’s reported acceptable ages.
Men’s preferred minimum partner age: Let’s start with minimum age preferences reported by heterosexual men.
In other words, while the rule states that 40-year-old women can feel comfortable dating 27-year-old men, this does not reflect the social preferences and standards of women.
Women in their 40s think that approximately 35 or older is acceptable for marriage or a relationship.
Figure 2 clearly shows that the rule’s max-age guidelines for men do reflect real-world preferences.
The rule overestimates the perceived acceptability of men becoming involved with older women.
With some quick math, the rule provides a minimum and maximum partner age based on your actual age that, if you choose to follow it, you can use to guide your dating decisions.
The utility of this equation is that it lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. Let's examine it: How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences?
For example, this sample of 60-year-old men report that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable.