New Study: Men and Women Value Different Traits in their Mates

August 10, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Meanwhile, file this story beside others like “Earth Still Round,” “Water Found to be Wet” and the like (UT News, 8/6/15). It reports on the findings of a new study done by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and is entitled “Genders Differ Dramatically in Evolved Mate Preferences.”

See what I mean? It’s not like we needed a study to confirm that, but in this day and age, we sometimes are required to re-learn the obvious.

The basic point of the findings is that, as humans evolved, males and females selected different sorts of mates. That is, a male’s preference for a female became over time, significantly different than a female’s preference for a male. The sexes needed different attributes in a mate and therefore selected mates they thought had those attributes.

Men’s and women’s ideas of the perfect mate differ significantly due to evolutionary pressures, according to a cross-cultural study on multiple mate preferences by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin…

“Many want to believe that women and men are identical in their underlying psychology, but the genders differ strikingly in their evolved mate preferences in some domains,” said co-author of the study and psychology professor David Buss. “The same holds true in highly sexually egalitarian cultures such as Sweden and Norway as in less egalitarian cultures such as Iran.”

Mating is multidimensional and requires matching a pattern of mate preferences to a pattern of potential mate features. The researchers suggest that these patterns of mate preferences are far more linked to gender than any individual mate preference examined separately would suggest.

Researchers found that they could predict a person’s sex with 92.2 percent accuracy if they knew his or her mate preferences.

“The large overall difference between men’s and women’s mate preferences tells us that the sexes must have experienced dramatically different challenges in the mating domain throughout human evolution,” said lead author and graduate researcher Daniel Conroy-Beam.

According to the study, men favor mates who are younger and physically attractive. Women seek older mates with good financial prospects, higher status and ambition.

This is neither new nor stunning. All we have to do is look at the different physiologies of men and women to see how sexual selection has acted over the past two million years or so. Women tended to choose men who were bigger, stronger and faster than other potential mates and sure enough, that’s how we find men today. Men chose women who looked younger than their female competitors and had a waist:hip ratio of about 0.7:1. Those criteria tended to produce for men mates who were more fertile and able to carry children to term than were other females.

Women’s choices directly resulted from a desire for a mate who was adept at providing resources for themselves and their children as well as men more likely to be part of successful male coalitions. Men’s choices resulted in the evolution of women who look (less body hair, smaller stature) and sound (higher-pitched voices) young, a phenomenon known as neotany.

Unsurprisingly, those evolutionary forces that have been at work for millions of years are still at work. Women still tend to choose as mates men who look to be good providers of resources and men still choose younger women who look like good mothers. Such are the findings of the study.

Perhaps most importantly, the study was conducted cross-culturally. Its findings are the same from one culture to another around the world in societies as disparate as Norway’s and Iran’s.

The study of 4,764 men and 5,389 women in 33 countries and 37 cultures showed that sex differences in mate preferences are much larger than previously appreciated and stable across cultures.

That of course means that the human behavior described by the study is not a function of culture; it’s a function of humanity. Needless to say, anthropological and archaeological evidence, along with evolutionary theory, hold that the same has been true from the earliest days of hominid existence and perhaps before.

This study joins a host of others that stand much contemporary thought on its head, and high time too. For decades we’ve been told that the fundamental relationship between men and women has always been political, i.e. a matter of power dynamics, wherein men oppressed women to keep them subservient and lacking power.

One of the many problems with that theory is that, unlike all other oppressed peoples in human history, women never seemed to notice their oppression. History is devoid of women of any class disagreeing with their role in society until about the middle of the 19th century. And men in significant numbers haven’t objected to theirs yet. The necessary conclusion would seem to be that, throughout countless millennia, men and women have tacitly agreed on who is to do what in human societies.

That women began questioning that age-old arrangement says a lot about improvements in prosperity, medicine, human longevity, economics, technology and the overall numbers of humans living on the planet that had occurred. What it doesn’t say is that, for some unknowable reason, in 1848, women suddenly wised up.

As I’ve been saying for a long time now, despite news media and popular culture messages that strain to convince us otherwise, human beings aren’t buying into the notion that women, having been released from male bondage, will begin to, well, act like males. Dataset after dataset reveal men and women to still be acting more in accord with biological roles established over unfathomable periods of time. Overwhelmingly, men still provide the resources and take the risks, and women still care for children under the protection of either a male or a coalition of men. It should come as no surprise that human beings haven’t tossed aside their evolutionarily-established roles so casually. Why would we? They’ve worked far too well.

One thing the linked-to article doesn’t mention is that, somewhere around 600,000 – 800,000 years ago, human females obviously started adding the trait of caregiver to their list of things they valued in a mate. The female’s connection to offspring and parenting behavior far pre-dates the male’s, but his goes back a long, long way. And it is that preference on the part of females that, through sexual selection, made human’s the bi-parental species we are, one of only 5% – 10% of all mammalian species.

But the study’s proverbial bottom line is one that should be repeated time and again until the current misconceptions abate. Relationships between men and women are now and have always been a function of our biology, evolved over millions of years. Those relationships will not be undone by specious political posturing. Elites may opine as they will, but people will continue behaving like people.


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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#humanmatepreferences, #sexualselection, #evolutionofmale/femaledifferences

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