Learning Outcomes. z1. Review the evidence concerning the use of lonely-heart personal advertisements (LHPA’s) to understand human mate preferences. z2. Carry out a content analysis of lonely-heart advertisements. z3. Discuss the findings in light of theoretical predictions.
Background. zLonely-hearts personal advertisements (LHPA's) are a highly popular means of meeting potential short- or long- term mating partners. zAround 80% of major newspapers and magazines surveyed ran LHPA's (Thiessen et al., 1993). zThere are problems in that submitters of LHPA's may represent a biased sample, or that the information provided may be inaccurate (Wiederman, 1993). zHowever, according to Thiessen et al., (1993) and Greenless & Mcgrew (1994) LHPA's provide an ecologically valid dating and mating arena in which to analyse human reproductive strategies and mate preferences.
Advantages of Content Analysis of LHPA’s. z1. Use of LHPA's is common, and those who place a LHPA do so for valid interpersonal reasons and not just because they want to be volunteers in research. z2. The placing of a LHPA is a 'real-life' act with genuine consequences and so is akin to a naturalistic observation rather than a controlled laboratory study. z3. LHPA users offer a broader range of age, class, and experiences than do most studies on mate preferences, which rely on undergraduate students. z4. The commodities of exchange are clear - both sexes provide information about themselves and their preferences. z5. The success or failure of a strategy can be followed-up. 6. The technique is simple to conduct and evaluate.
General Predictions. zBased on sexual selection / parental investment we could argue that females may seek males who demonstrate their ability and willingness to contribute to a relationship or on their genetic quality. zMales place a higher emphasis on female fertility and could thus be predicted to seek information concerning youth, attractiveness, parental skills, and fertility.
Female Predictions. zWe might expect females to offer: zYouth and attractiveness ('cute', 'buxom' 'petite', 'shapely'), caring behaviour ('kind', 'gentle', 'sincere'), perhaps the promise of sex ('cuddly', 'sensual' 'into fun times'). zThey may seek: zResources, and the willingness to invest them (i.e. 'homeowner', 'employed', 'professional' 'generous', 'sharing' etc). zIntelligence ('educated'), mate reliability ('honesty'), and a partner who is older than themselves ('mature'). zCertain physical features (i.e. 'tall', 'muscular') but may not particularly emphasise 'good looks'.
Male Predictions. zWe might expect males to principally offer: zResources (i.e. status, job description, property ownership, likes holidays abroad) and reliability ('honest', 'mature' etc). zWhile they may not offer good looks they may emphasise their height or physique ('tall', 'rugged', 'healthy'). zThey will seek: zYounger attractive partners and will probably not demand intelligence, social status, or resources. Certain characteristics such as 'generosity', 'good sense of humour', 'kindness', 'caring nature' etc may be sought by both sexes.
Previous Content-Analysis Studies. zIn an analysis of more than 1000 LHPA's, Wiederman (1993) reported than female advertisers sought resources 11 times more often than males. zMales were likely to offer resources and the willingness to invest them (e.g. ‘homeowner’, ‘employed’ ‘educated’, ‘generous nature’) than women. zMales who mentioned resources were significantly more likely to receive a reply. zThiessen et al., (1993) also reported that males were significantly more likely to offer resources, while women were more likely to seek them. zGreenless & Mcgrew (1993) reported that males sought youth, attractiveness, and sexual availability, while women sought evidence of resources, financial security, and possible long-term commitment.
Resource Offering and Requests. From Thiessen et al., 1993, p216.
The Factor of Age. zIn a review of age preferences, Kenrick & Keefe (1992) found that females typically preferred males who were around 5-10 years older than themselves, and this remained fairly consistent over the life span. zGreenless & McGrew (1994) reported that the average age of male advertisers was 36 as opposed to 34.9 for women and women are significantly more likely to stipulate the age of their preferred partner (older than themselves). In around 900 LHPA's from the 'Observer' newspaper Pawlowski & Dunbar (1999) found that women typically prefer males 2-3 years older than themselves and this remains stable across the age range, males however request increasingly younger partners as they age.
Age Preferences. Data from Kenrick & Keefe, 1993, p80.
Age Preferences continued. Data from Pawlowski & Dunbar, 1999, in Barrett et al., (2002) p100.
Characteristics of the Sender. zWaynforth & Dunbar (1995) showed that individual preferences are contingent upon what the person has to offer. In more than 800 LHPA's they found: zWomen become less demanding as they get older (as their reproductive value declines). zMales become more demanding as they get older (resources increase). zWomen offering attractiveness are more demanding. zMales offering resources are more demanding. zMales with fewer resources offer family commitment. zMales and females with dependant offspring make lower demands. Individuals from higher socio-economic groups make higher demands than those from lower groups.
Successful LHPA's. zLynn & Shurgot (1984) found that females describing themselves as 'slim' received more replies. zTall, males with dark hair received more replies than shorter males with lighter hair. zGreen et al., (1984) compared the most ‘popular’ male and female 'dates' with the most 'unpopular’ from a video dating agency. zYounger and more attractive females were most popular as were older males with high status. zRajecki et al., (1991) reported that in general women received more replies than men, with younger women and older males receiving the most replies.
Pawlowski & Koziel (2002) zUsing matrimonial bureau records of 551 male and 617 female LHPA's they analysed which particular stated traits influenced the 'hit rate'. zAs in previous studies males offered resources and sought attractiveness, while females offered attractiveness and sought resources/commitment. zFor males the most important predictors of hit rate (in order of success) were education, age (older), height (tall) and marital status (single) and resources. zFor females the most important factors influencing hit rate were as follows: weight (thin), height (medium), and education (less). zSurprisingly attractiveness offered was not a significant predictor.
Activities. z1. Use the table provided to put together a tally sheet of features offered and requested by each sex. zWe will collect the data together and discuss the findings. z2. Using your knowledge concerning successful LHPA's, write an LHPA for a male and female that you think should bring them success.
References. zGreen, S.K., Buchanan, D.R., & Heuer, S.K. (1984). Winners, losers, and choosers: a field investigation of dating initiation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10: 502-511. zGreenless, I.A., & McGrew, W.C. (1994). Sex and age differences in preference and tactics of mate attraction: analysis of published advertisements. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15: 59-72. zKenrick, D.T., & Keefe, R.C. (1992). Age preferences in mates reflect sex differences in human reproductive strategies. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 15: 75-133. zLynn, M., & Shurgot, B.A. (1984). Responses to lonely hearts advertisements: effect of reported physical attractiveness, physique and coloration. Personality and Social psychology Bulletin, 10: 349-357. zPawlowski, B., & Dunbar, R.I.M. (1999). Impact of market value on human mate choice decisions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 266: 281-285.
References continued. zPawlowski, B., & Koziel, S. (2002). The impact of traits offered in personal advertisements on response rates. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 23: 139-149. zRajecki, D.W., Bledsoe, S.B., & Rasmussen, J.L. (1991). Successful personal ads: gender differences and similarities in offers, stipulations, and outcomes. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12: 457-469. zThiessen, D., Young, R.K., & Burroughs, R. (1993). Lonely hearts advertisements reflect sexually dimorphic mating strategies. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 209-229. zWaynforth, D., & Dunbar, R.I.M. (1995). Conditional mate choice strategies in humans: evidence from 'lonely hearts' advertisements. Behaviour, 132: 755-779. Wiederman, M.W. (1993). Evolved gender differences in mate preferences: evidence from personal advertisements. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14: 331-352.