Sex differences and similarities inhuman mate selection preferences: Stereotypes versus self-report.
Mating Preferences • Men’s and women’s criteria for mate preferences show strong similarities and small differences. • Why are the small differences so much more salient than the strong similarities?
Men and women agree about what they want in a mate • Character traits like dependability, stability and mutual attraction are most important to both sexes • Accidents of birth or child rearing like political beliefs, religion, and ethnicity are least important to both sexes.
Men and women agree that the sexes want different things • Both men and women agree that women are choosier, that most characteristics of a mate are more important to the stereotypical woman than to the stereotypical man. • The only exceptions are that looks, housekeeping skills, and political beliefs are judged to be more important to men.
More important to females CT mate stereotypes More important to males
The stereotypes have a grain of truth • The stereotypes capture and exaggerate the small differences in mate preferences.
Interpretation: Humans are humane • The self-reports of preferences are honest and accurate. Both men and women, as members of a mostly monogamous and bi-parentally investing species, share interests in finding a trustworthy partner with whom to pursue a common reproductive career.
Humans are humane (continued) • The most important criteria for both sexes reflect that shared interest: mutuality, dependability, stability, pleasant disposition, and intelligence. • The least important criteria have to do with criteria irrelevant to that shared interest: accidents of birth (religion, status) or history (politics, chastity).
Humans are humane (continued) • Effective mating tactics involve self-promotion or derogation of rivals on criteria that match the preferences of the potential mate. • Sex similarities in mate preference are easy to learn (just consult one’s own preferences) but differences require selective attention. • The small sex differences in mate preferences are especially salient because they have a disproportionate effect on mating competition.
Sex stereotypes as an adaptive cognitive illusion • The pattern of results suggests the existence of a cognitive illusion that heightens attention to fitness-relevant differences at the expense of attention to similarities or fitness-irrelevant differences.
A fitness-irrelevant difference • Different age groups of respondents differ almost as much as the sexes do: As men and women get older, they become more “feminized” in their mate preferences. • Good looks become less important (CT F = 20.39, p < .001). • Ambition becomes more so (F = 5.08, p < .01). • No one notices this.
Sex stereotypes as an adaptive cognitive illusion • We do not need another evolved domain-specific mental module – classic mechanisms of attention, learning, and memory can do the job.