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For example, this sample of 60-year-old men reports that it is acceptable to fantasize about women in their 20s, which the rule would say is unacceptable.

But fantasies, of course, are not generally subject to public scrutiny and the rule is only designed to calculate what is socially acceptable —so this discrepancy is not necessarily a failure of the rule.

age boundary: Take your age, subtract 7, and double it.

So for a 24-year-old, the upper age limit would be 34 (17 * 2). How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences?

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.

Women’s preferred maximum partner age: Examining maximum preferences, again the rule is more lenient, offering an age range with which most people are not comfortable.

Only twice has he become involved with women whose ages were outside the rule’s guidelines.

Even when fantasizing, such women’s minimum age preference remains over 30.

The rule’s calculated minimum acceptable partner ages seem to fit men better than 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. It lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) asked men and women to identify the ages they would consider when evaluating someone for relationships of different levels of involvement.

According to the rule, for example, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22, while a 50-year-old’s dating partner must be at least 32 to not attract (presumed) social sanction. Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? People reported distinct age preferences for marriage; a serious relationship; falling in love; casual sex; and sexual fantasies. Based on the figures Buunk and colleagues (2000) provided (and thus the numbers are only informed approximations), I replotted their data superimposing the max and min age ranges defined by the half-your-age-plus-7 rule.

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