A life history view of mate preferences

dr hab. Peter K. Jonason, Prof. UKSW – Department of General Psychology, University of Padua Instytut Psychologii, University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński


10 listopada 2022

A life history view of mate preferences 

Most research on mate preferences using evolutionary models focuses on sexual strategies theory. Here we propose that life history theory is a higher-order theory that can account not just for context effects and sex differences in mate preferences but also in why certain qualities are valued in the first place. Across five studies we measured mate preferences in normative, forced choice, and budget allocation methods and captured individual differences in fast (e.g., agency, psychopathy) and slow (e.g., communal orientation, life history speed) life history traits using various measure of personality among Australian (Study 1; N = 339 and 3; N = 695), Italian (Study 2; N = 185), mTurk workers (Study 4; N = 281), and Prolific workers (Study 5; N = 258). For instance, in Study 2, those with a faster life history speed—as captured with high scores on the Mini-K—cared more about physical attractiveness but only in the long-term context, in Study 4 those with a faster life history speed—as captured with high scores in Machiavellianism and limit moral disgust—preferred attractive partners and, in Study 5 slower people—as captured in individual differences in communion—were less interested in attractiveness across all low and medium budgets but were more interested in the high budget condition. We also replicated several effects in relationship psychology like men’s greater interest in physical attractiveness, especially in the short-term context, than women’s and women’s greater interest in compassion in general than men’s. Our results represent the first systematic assessment of how mate preferences might be understood using a life history framework.

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