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.
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.
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.
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.
Only twice has he become involved with women whose ages were outside the rule’s guideline.
Men do not show a linear increase in maximum age preference that matches the rule’s predictions.
Instead, men report maximum acceptable partner ages that hover around their own age through their 40s.
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.
In Figure 1, the solid black line represents the rule’s calculation for minimum acceptable range.