You can see that men are basically operating by the rule for minimum age preferences for marital relationships (blue bars) and serious dating relationships (yellow bars).
Those age preferences consistently hover around the values denoted by the rule (the black line).
Men’s preferred partner age: The rule states that you can calculate maximum acceptable partner ages by subtracting seven from your own age and multiplying it by 2.
Figure 2 clearly shows that the rule’s max-age guidelines for men do reflect real-world preferences.
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.
Clooney has been scrutinized at times for dating younger women, though not consistently, and this pattern is nicely reflected in a graph of his own age, his partners’ ages, and the rule’s calculations for minimum and maximum acceptable ages.
In general, the figure shows that women are reporting minimum age preferences that the rule’s predictions.
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? 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.
Men’s preferred minimum partner age: Let’s start with minimum age preferences reported by heterosexual men.
In Figure 1, the solid black line represents the rule’s calculation for minimum acceptable range.
The rule states that it is acceptable for 30-year old women to date men who are up to 46 years old, but in actuality, 30-year-old women state that their max acceptable partner age would be less than 40 (around 37).
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.