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Evolutionary Psychology Lecture 6: Female Mate Preferences. Learning Outcomes. At the end of this session you should be able to: 1 . Discuss evolutionary explanations for female long-term mate preferences. 2 . Evaluate experimental and survey evidence concerning female mate preferences.

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Evolutionary psychology lecture 6 female mate preferences l.jpg
Evolutionary Psychology Lecture 6:Female Mate Preferences.


Learning outcomes l.jpg
Learning Outcomes.

  • At the end of this session you should be able to:

  • 1. Discuss evolutionary explanations for female long-term mate preferences.

  • 2. Evaluate experimental and survey evidence concerning female mate preferences.


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Thoughts for the day.

  • “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”. Henry Kissinger.

  • “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning”. Aristotle Onassis.

  • “When you’re famous your love life diminishes. Your sex life grows”. Enrique Iglesias.

  • “Ain’t nothing going on but the rent. You gotta have a J.O.B if you want to be with me” Gwen Guthrie.

  • “I’m not a good-looking person. I’ve struggled to get girls for most of my life, and then, suddenly, I win the casual-sex lottery by getting famous”. Frank Skinner.

  • “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” Mrs Merton to Debbie McGee.


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Female Mate Preferences.

  • Due to inequalities in parental investment, females face several adaptive problems in finding the right mate.

  • Ancestral females who had the right psychological mechanisms to find mates of higher value more sexually attractive than those of a lower value, would have been more reproductively successful.

  • Thus, females evolved preferences (information processing biases) that would enable them to assess such traits, and find them sexually and romantically attractive.

  • In our ancestors, what traits would have been correlated with high male mating value?


1 ability and willingness to provide resources l.jpg
1. Ability and Willingness to Provide Resources.

  • Human males can provide a range of resources for the female:

  • Food.

  • Shelter.

  • Protection from other males.

  • Females should have evolved preferences for males who:

  • Have good financial prospects.

  • Are older than themselves.

  • Have higher social status.

  • Display hard working and industrious characters.

  • These are clear signs of resource acquisition.


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Evidence.

  • In all human societies women value the economic resources of a potential partner substantially more than men do.

  • Trivers (1985) found that American men who marry in a given year generally earn 50% more money than men of the same age who do not marry.

  • Buss (1989) showed that women valued financial prospects around twice as highly as men.

Preference for good financial prospects

Buss (1999) p109


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Male Earning Capacity.

  • Kenrick et al., (1990) asked participants to indicate the minimum percentiles of characteristics they would find acceptable in a potential partner.

  • Females stated that the minimum acceptable earning capacity for a male partner is around 70% that of other men.

  • Women also had higher standards regarding financial prospects at all stages of a relationship

Kenrick et al., 1990


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Education and Job prospects.

  • As many women choose males that are still young and relatively lacking in social status and resources, a good cue to potential resource acquisition is education and willingness to seek resources.

  • Women thus place high value on good education, the possession of a promising career, and characteristics indicating hard work in potential mates: career orientation, industriousness and ambition.

  • Women are significantly more likely to discontinue relationships with males who become unemployed, lack career motivation or show laziness (Betzig, 1989).


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Status and Male Attractiveness.

  • Townsend & Levy (1990a) investigated the relative importance of status and attractiveness at six levels of romantic involvement.

  • Photographs of people of high, medium, and low attractiveness were paired with three levels of occupational status and income.

  • Students viewed the portrayals and indicated their willingness to engage in relationships of varying levels of sexual intimacy.

  • Male socioeconomic status had a large influence on female responses at all levels of intimacy. This increased as the degree of involvement increased.

  • Physical attraction had some influence but the highest status was able to offset unattractiveness.


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Townsend & Levy (1990b) Study.

  • Looked at the effects of status (signified by clothing), and attractiveness on female willingness to engage in romantic relationships.

  • Male targets were pre-rated for physical attraction and divided into two categories - handsome, and homely. The targets wore one of three costumes:

  • 1. Blazer, shirt, designer tie, Rolex watch. Described as being doctors (high status).

  • 2. Plain white shirt. Described as being teachers (medium status).

  • 3. Uniform of a Burger King employee. Described as being trainee waiters (low status).

  • Women were more willing to engage in relationships with high status/homely males then with medium - or low status / handsome males at all levels of involvement.


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What About High Status Women?

  • Women who are of high status also prefer males of a high status - preferably of even higher status than themselves.

  • Townsend (1989) reported that female medical students became more selective in their criteria in entering a sexual relationship. Males were convinced that their increasing status would enable them to engage in more sexual activity.


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The Factor of Age.

  • Older males are significantly more likely to have achieved a sound economic and financial status than younger, inexperienced males.

  • Buss (1989): In a cross-cultural survey female preference was for someone around 4 years older.

  • Kenrick & Keefe (1992): Females consistently married males who were around 5 years older than themselves.


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Preferred Age Differences

Buss (2001) p 113


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Actual Age Differences at Marriage.

Kenrick & Keefe, 1992, p81.



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2. Ability and Willingness to Provide Protection.

  • Surveys consistently show that females prefer males who are socially dominant and have the respect of their peers.

  • Forming a relationship with a socially dominant male would confer greater direct access to resources and also raise the social status of the female.

  • Women pay close attention to how men interact with, and are treated by other men.

  • Sadella et al., (1987) made video’s depicting males and females engaging in dominant or submissive behaviour with another male or a female.

  • Dominant behaviour increased the sexual attractiveness and dating desirability of the males, whilst female targets were unaffected.


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Height.

  • Height is associated with power and status and confers economic and social advantages. Taller men are perceived as being more dominant and we would predict that females should choose taller over shorter males.

  • Graziano et al., (1978) had women judge pictures of men who they believed to be short, medium or tall on attractiveness and dating desirability. Tall men were rated more positively than short men, though males of medium height were most preferred.

  • In a sample of over 4000 Polish men Pawlowski et al., (2000) found that height was significantly associated with the likelihood of getting married and having children.

  • Bachelors were significantly shorter than married men.


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Facial Hair.

  • In humans the presence or absence of head and facial hair provide strong social/sexual signals.

  • Facial hair is generated at puberty in the presence of testosterone and rate of beard growth is positively related to androgen levels.

  • It has been suggested that facial hair may have evolved as a dominance signal as it increases the apparent size of the jaw, itself a male secondary sexual characteristic.

  • Males with facial hair are rated as being more masculine, strong, potent, dominant and courageous, but also as lacking in self-control, dirty, aggressive and reckless (Reed & Blunk, 1990).


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Facial Hair and Attractiveness?

  • Women often state that they do not find male facial hair attractive.

  • One study manipulated the extent of facial hair in Identi-kit pictures and found that attractiveness ratings increased as the quantity of facial hair increased (Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986).

  • There may be large cultural differences in this respect.


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Cranial Hair.

  • Muscarella & Cunningham (1996) suggested that male pattern baldness evolved as a signal of aging and social maturity. This may signal a male with enhanced social status but reduced physical aggression.

  • 6 male models with different levels of facial and cranial hair were rated on 32 social perception adjectives.

  • Males with facial hair and those with bald or receding hair were rated as being older than those who were clean-shaven, or had a full head of hair.

  • Beards and a full head of hair were also seen as being more aggressive and less socially mature, baldness was associated with less attractiveness and more social maturity.


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Torso.

  • Horvarth (1979) found that shoulder width was a strong positive predictor of the attractiveness of male figures.

  • Maisey et al., (1999) found that waist-chest ratio (WCR) was the principal determinant of attractiveness - males with an inverted triangle torso (narrow waist with broad chest and shoulders) were rated as being more attractive.

  • More recently, Hughes & Gallup (2003) showed that males with a high shoulder-to-hip ratio (SHR) reported having sex at an earlier age, had more sexual partners, and more extrapair copulations.

  • A protruding stomach is seen as an exceptionally unattractive trait in men.



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Athleticism

  • Physical competition is widespread in human societies and these ritualised encounters enable males to demonstrate speed, endurance, and strength. Sporting achievement is an honest signal of physical condition, motivation and competitiveness.

  • Faurie et al., (2004) predicted that:

  • Sports competitors should have more sexual partners than other people.

  • Number of partners should increase with performance level.

  • This should be particularly pronounced in males.

  • The predictions were confirmed in French students.


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Fluctuating Asymmetry.

  • Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) indicates developmental stability in the presence of environmental and genetic challenges, and therefore provides a possible indicator of health (and therefore perhaps fertility).

  • Low FA (more symmetrical) males report more sexual partners, earlier age of first sexual intercourse, and have more offspring than high FA men (Thornhill & Gangstead, 1994).

  • Women whose partners have low FA report more orgasms than those whose partners have high FA (Thornhill et al., 1995).

  • Male faces high in symmetry are rated as being more attractive, dominant, sexy, and healthy (Grammer & Thornhill 1994).


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Facial Asymmetry and Health.

  • Shackelford & Larsen (1998) measured the degree of facial asymmetry in students.

  • Greater asymmetry was related to self-reported depression, neuroses, inferiority, more physical health problems.

  • High FA males were also rated as being less attractive, less emotionally-stable, and less intelligent.

  • However, this link between facial symmetry and health is not always reported (Kalick et al., 1998).



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Influence of the Menstrual Cycle.

  • Penton-Voak et al., (1999): found that females preferred masculine-looking faces at ovulation, but less-masculine faces when non-fertile.

  • However, Koehler et al., (2002) asked non-pill-using females to rate the attractiveness of male faces varying in symmetry during menses and just before ovulation.

  • Females did have an overall preference for symmetry but this was irrespective of menstrual cycle phase.


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Genetic Compatibility.

  • Body odour serves as a cue for immunological health, Gangstead & Thornhill (1998) examined whether female olfactory preferences for male odour would favour the scent of more symmetrical men during ovulation.

  • For contraceptive pill users and females not ovulating, there was no relationship.

  • However, non pill-users when ovulating consistently preferred the scent of symmetrical men.

  • Herz & Inzlicht (2002) asked males and females to rank various physical characteristics in a potential partner.

  • While males where primarily concerned with physical attractiveness, females considered a man's smell to be more important than 'looks', 'money' or 'ambition'.


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3. Ability and Willingness to Engage in Parenting.

  • La Cerra (1994) presented pictures of males in several different conditions with children.

  • The picture of the male engaging in positive interactions with a small child yielded the most positive reactions.

  • The picture showing a male ignoring a child in distress led to the most negative ratings.

  • Women highly value characteristics such as ‘dependability’, ‘maturity’ and ‘emotional stability’. They may indicate that the male is willing to provide resources and continue his investment.

  • Expressions of love may be a signal of regular commitment and the majority of women require love for a long-term relationship.


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To attract a female as a long-term mating partner, a male should..

  • 1. Show evidence of ambition, hard work, and intelligence.

  • 2. Be generous (buy gifts, give to charity etc).

  • 3. Dress well.

  • 4. Be confident and assertive (around other males).

  • 5. Be taller than the woman in question.

  • 6. Be clean shaven and have a full head of hair.

  • 7. Have broad shoulders, be moderately hunky and have no beer belly.

  • 8. Be facially and physically symmetrical, and show good health.

  • 9. Be athletic and sporty.

  • 10. Smell ‘right’.

  • 11. Be nice to babies and children.


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And if you can’t manage any of these? partner, a male should..

  • Be absolutely filthy stinking rich.