Men choose a woman who is at least moderately physically attractive, research finds.
Women, however, prioritise choosing a man of at least moderate social status when considering a long-term relationship.
The speed dating study found that men of low social status and unattractive women tended to lose out.
The partners that people chose were in line with their predictions beforehand.
In other words, men prioritised appearance and women prioritised social status.
Men and women were the same, though, when thinking about a short-term relationship — then both sexes were focused on physical appearance.
The study used both speed dating and online dating formats to test people’s partner preferences.
Before chatting with members of the opposite sex, participants were asked about their preferences.
Dr Norman Li, who led the study, explained the results:
“[people] prioritize different qualities when screening each other in online chats and speed-dates – women want men who are at least average in social status while men want women who are at least moderately physically attractive.
We also are the first to demonstrate that what individuals say they value in potential mates is indeed reflected in how they actually choose them in initial mating situations.”
In other words, people do know what they want in a partner, although men and women differ.
Dr Oliver Sng, study co-author, said:
“Speed-dating events and other modern contexts have many factors that can prevent a person’s ideal preferences from being expressed.
This new study identifies one such factor (lack of low-end variability) and shows that once you correct for it, people do indeed make choices closer to what they ideally want.”
Professor Douglas Kenrick, study co-author, said:
“The new study helps to dispel politically correct – but factually misguided – notions of a gender-neutral world where men and women want the exact same kind of mates.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Li et al., 2013).