The relationship between number of potential mates and mating skew in humans

A. P. Lenton, B. Fasolo, P. M. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In nonhuman animal mate choice, a small number of ( usually male) options typically leads to an unequal distribution of selections ( usually by females) across the options, indicating adaptive choice; conversely, an increasing number of mate options typically yields less inequality of choices across the options. We examined mating skew, a measure of this inequality in mating choices, among humans by considering the offers made by participants in 118 speed-dating sessions of various sizes. Overall, the relationship between a number of indices of mating skew and option set size ( the number of opposite-sex participants in the speed-dating session) was positive, with larger sessions producing more mate choice inequality. This result contrasts with the negative relationship between skew and option set size found in nonhuman animals. We interpret these results as the outcome of similar choice mechanisms but different cues used by humans versus other species when making a choice from an abundance of mates. (C) 2008 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-60
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • choice strategy
  • cue
  • humans
  • Homo sapiens
  • mate choice
  • mating skew
  • number of options
  • sexual selection
  • speed dating

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