Different cognitive processes underlie human mate choices and mate preferences

Peter M. Todd, Lars Penke, Barbara Fasolo, Alison P. Lenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Based on undergraduates' self-reports of mate preferences for various traits and self-perceptions of their own levels on those traits, Buston and Emlen [Buston PM, Emlen ST (2003) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:8805-8810] concluded that modern human mate choices do not reflect predictions of tradeoffs from evolutionary theory but instead follow a "likes-attract" pattern, where people choose mates who match their self-perceptions. However, reported preferences need not correspond to actual mate choices, which are more relevant from an evolutionary perspective. In a study of 46 adults participating in a speed-dating event, we were largely able to replicate Buston and Emlen's self-report results in a pre-event questionnaire, but we found that the stated preferences did not predict actual choices made during the speed-dates. Instead, men chose women based on their physical attractiveness, whereas women, who were generally much more discriminating than men, chose men whose overall desirability as a mate matched the women's self-perceived physical attractiveness. Unlike the cognitive processes that Buston and Emlen inferred from self-reports, this pattern of results from actual mate choices is very much in line with the evolutionary predictions of parental investment theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15011-15016
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume104
Issue number38
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2007

Keywords

  • assortative mating
  • decision making
  • evolutionary psychology
  • sexual selection
  • speed-dating
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES
  • THIN SLICES
  • EVOLUTIONARY
  • BEHAVIOR
  • INTELLIGENCE
  • PERSPECTIVE
  • STRATEGIES
  • DECEPTION
  • RESPONSES
  • SELECTION

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