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Evolutionary Psychology Lecture 7: Male Mate Preferences.

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Presentation on theme: "Evolutionary Psychology Lecture 7: Male Mate Preferences."— Presentation transcript:

1 Evolutionary Psychology Lecture 7: Male Mate Preferences.

2 Learning Outcomes. zAt the end of this session you should be able to: z1. Discuss evolutionary explanations for male mate preferences.  2. Evaluate experimental and survey evidence concerning male mate preferences.

3 Thoughts for the Day. z"Beauty is not judged objectively, but according to the beholder’s estimation". Theocritus. z“Judge not according to the appearance” John 7:24. z“All the beauty of the world, ‘tis but skin deep” Ralph Venning. z“Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction”. Aristotle. z“Why may I not speak of your beauty, since without that I could never have loved you”. John Keats to Fanny Browne. z“Beauty is in the adaptations of the beholder”. Don Symons.

4 Male Mating Strategies zMales would prefer numerous sexual contacts with no commitment, but female choice forces males to adopt more long-term mating strategies. There are several advantages to this: z1. Males who provide clear evidence of commitment will be able to attract a better quality female. z2. The male can increase his odds of paternity certainty as he will engage in mate-guarding behaviours to reduce the possibility of cuckoldry. z3. The children of a stable relationship are much more likely to survive.

5 What Do Men Find Attractive In Women? zBuss (1999) points out that be reproductively successful a male needs to mate with a female who has the capacity to produce children. zHuman female reproductive value cannot be assessed directly as ovulation is concealed (unlike most other mammals). zHowever, there are several clues to a woman's reproductive value and ancestral males would have been selected for to detect and respond accordingly to these signals. zSuch signals would be 'honest' signals as they would be an accurate reflection of developmental and hormonal health.

6 1. Youth. zThis is a powerful cue to reproductive potential as women reach their reproductive peak around the age of twenty which declines rapidly thereafter. Diagram from Buss (1999) p134

7 Male Age Preferences (Kenrick & Keefe, 1992) p80 zIn studies of mate preferences, males desire females who are at their peak of reproductive potential. zEg, in every one of 37 societies males preferred younger wives, on average around 2 ½ years younger than the male (Buss, 1989). zAs males age, they prefer mates who are increasingly younger (Kenrick & Keefe, 1992).

8 What About Teenagers? zIf teenage males prefer younger partners then these females may not be old enough to bear children. zWe would therefore predict that teenage males would prefer slightly older females. zKenrick et al., (1996) asked teenage males and females (aged between 12-19) the ideal age of a dating partner, and the age limits that would be acceptable. zTeenage males (unlike older males) preferred mates who were slightly older than themselves zHowever, they are unlikely to be successful in this because females at all ages prefer older males!

9 Age Preference Changes at Different Relationship Levels. zBuunk et al., (2001) examined minimum and maximum age preferences for mates across 5 different levels of relationship involvement in people aged zWomen preferred partners around their own age regardless of the relationship involvement. zHowever, irrespective of their own age, males preferred mates at the peak of reproductive capability (18-30) for short-term relationships or sexual fantasies. zFor long-term relationships however, males preferred mates who although younger than themselves, were sometimes above the age of maximum fertility. zThis may be because males realise that very young women would not find them attractive.

10 Female Minimum Age Preferences. Buunk et al., 2001) p246 marriage Sexual fantasy Casual affair Falling in love relationship

11 Male Minimum Age Preferences. Buunk et al., 2001) p246 marriage relationship Falling in love Casual affair Sexual fantasy

12 2. Beauty. zAttractiveness provides a reliable cue to reproductive value, especially of youth: zUnwrinkled skin. zBright eyes. zFull red lips. zGlossy hair. zLack of facial blemishes and facial hair. zMales evolved the tendency to become sexually interested in such stimuli because selection favoured those who assessed their partner's acceptability for mating on the basis of such fertility cues. zMales assign far greater significance to physical attractiveness than do females (Buss & Schmitt 1993).

13 Importance of Physical Attraction Buss & Schmitt (1993) p219

14 Power of Attractiveness. zPhysical attractiveness is a strong predictor of whether a woman will marry, and of the socioeconomic status of their spouse. zTownsend & Wasserman (1998) used photographs of individuals varying in attractiveness which were presented with a brief description varying in social status; degree of generosity and ambition. zStudents were asked to answer a series of questions concerning the individuals dating / sexual / marital desirability.  Males were willing to date and have sex with the most attractive individuals irrespective of their social status.

15 Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? zIt used to be thought that standards of beauty were culturally determined, and individuals perceptions of beauty had to be learned. zDarwin noted differing cultural preferences involving beauty (grooming, body shape, adornments, hair style, cosmetics, clothing etc) and stated "It is certainly not true that there is in the mind of man any universal standard of beauty with respect to the human body". zHowever, Langlois et al., (1990) studied infants responses to faces differing in attractiveness. zBoth groups gazed longer at the faces that had been judged as being attractive than those judged as being unattractive. zIn another experiment, infants played longer with dolls with attractive faces than ones with unattractive faces.

16 Cross-Cultural Agreement. zCunningham et al., (1995) proposed a 'multiple fitness model' emphasising that beauty reflects a combination of desirable neonate, sexually mature, expressive, and grooming qualities. zWithin and between cultures, individuals may display variance in response to specific features, but will respond in a similar manner to the features as a whole. zThey presented males from 4 ethnic-cultural groups with Asian, black, Hispanic, and white female faces. zThe average correlation between racial groups in their rating of attractiveness was r =.93, exposure to Western media had no influence on the ratings.  All males were attracted to large eyes, small noses, high cheekbones, small chin and a large smile.

17 Contrast Effects. zKenrick et al., (1989) examined the effects of exposure to attractive nude females on male sexual attraction judgements. zParticipants currently in a relationship viewed 16 pictures of attractive nude females or 16 art slides. zThey then rated their current relationship and stated the extent to which they loved their partner and found them sexually attractive. zMales exposed to attractive female nudes showed a significant reduction in ratings for their partner.  Kanazawa & Still (2000) found that male secondary school teacher/college lecturers were statistically more likely to divorce.

18 a) Skin Condition. zSkin condition may be a reliable signal of female health and fertility and flawless skin is one of the most universally desired female features (Etcoff, 1999). zSkin condition is an 'honest' signal because it reflects the ratio of sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), e.g women with higher than average levels of testosterone have more acne and facial hair (Lucky, 1995). zSkin tone may also be an honest sign of youthfulness, as skin darkens with age, skin tone also alters with fertility becoming darker during the non-fertile phase of the cycle, during pregnancy, and in women who use the contraceptive pill (Fink et al., 2001). zVan den Berghe & Frost (1986) proposed that changes in female skin colour may enable males to distinguish more fertile females from less fertile ones.

19 b) Symmetry. zFaces created by combining individual faces into composites are viewed as being more attractive than the individual faces themselves. zThis was initially thought to reflect a preference for averageness. zHowever, in making composites, symmetry is increased and facial blemishes are reduced. zGrammer & Thornhill (1994) found that female composite faces were judged as being more attractive and sexy than the individual photos. 2-face composite 32-face composite

20 c) Neoteny. zA key feature of female facial attractiveness is the extent of babyish features that the face displays: zlarge eyes; high cheek bones; small nose; small chin; full lips; short eye- chin distance. z Such features are created by a high estrogen/low testosterone ratio. z Any cues to illness or advanced age (wrinkles, grey hair, poor complexion, poor teeth etc) are universally rated as being unattractive. z Johnson & Franklin (1993) used a computer program, which allowed participants to morph faces until they had achieved an ‘ideal’ face. The final face had proportions indicative of a 14-year-old Angelina Jolie’s bee-sting lips are an ‘honest’ signal of youth and fertility

21 3. Body Size and Shape. zStandards for body size preferences vary between cultures. zIn Western societies, males currently prefer average-slim body sizes and such preferences have changed: zPlayboy centrefolds have declined in body size from the 1950's. zWinners of beauty pageants and competitions are several body sizes smaller than average. zIn cultures where food is scare, plumpness is a sign of adequate nutrition, health and good social standing.

22 Distribution of Body Fat. zBody fat distribution may be an honest signal of reproductive status. zDifferences in body fat distribution are minimal in infancy, childhood and old age, and maximal in early reproductive life. zAt puberty, males deposit tissue on the upper body, females deposit tissue on the thighs, breasts and buttocks. zDifferences in fat distribution can be assessed by measuring waist-to-hip ratio. zWHR = waist circumference divided by hip circumferance).

23 WHR, Health and Fertility. zAfter puberty the female WHR becomes significantly lower than that of the male due to the presence of estrogens. zthe typical female WHR is between zthe typical male WHR is between zAccording to Singh (1993) WHR is unique to humans and may be an adaptation signalling fertility. zIn girls of the same body weight, those with lower WHR’s (feminised) exhibit earlier pubertal endocrine activity. zWomen with a higher WHR (masculinised) have greater difficulty in becoming pregnant. zA high WHR indicates proneness to diabetes, hypertension, heart problems and strokes.

24 WHR and Attraction. zSingh (1993) presented participants with line drawings representing four levels of WHR at three levels of body weight. zIn all weight categories, males and females rated the figure with the lowest WHR as being more youthful, healthy, reproductively capable and attractive. zThe normal weight figure with a WHR of 0.7 was rated as most attractive. zThe underweight figure with a WHR of 0.7 was rated as most youthful but not as attractive or reproductively capable. zSingh & Young (1995) found that figures with large breasts and small hips were rated as most attractive. Figures with large hips were rated as being the least attractive irrespective of breast size.

25 The Perfect Female Body?

26 4. Behavioural Characteristics: Paternity Certainty. zAs males lack paternity certainty, those males that were able to reduce the risk of cuckoldry would have had greater reproductive fitness. zMales should have developed adaptations to seek partners (particularly for long-term relationships) who would remain faithful. zChastity is valued highly in most cultures but there are large differences in its extent (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). zMales in all cultures view promiscuity and unfaithfulness as being particularly undesirable in a potential long-term partner.

27 Preference for Chastity. Buss & Schmitt (1993) p218

28 To attract a male as a long-term mating partner, a female should.. z1. Be younger than the male. z2. Have bright eyes, full red lips, and glossy hair. z3. Have clear, unwrinkled, unblemished and hairless skin. z4. Possess symmetrical facial features combined with neoteny (e.g. small nose, large eyes). z5. Have a slim waist, large breasts, and a WHR around 0.7. z6. Have a 'good' reputation, i.e. chastity and faithfulness.


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