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Abstract

To identify the universal dimensions of long-term mate preferences, we used an archival database of preference ratings provided by several thousand participants from three dozen cultures [Buss, D. M. (1989)]. Participants from each culture responded to the same 18-item measure. Statistical procedures ensured that ratings provided by men and women were weighted equally, and that ratings provided by participants from each culture were weighted equally. We identified four universal dimensions: Love vs. Status/Resources; Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health; Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children; and Sociability vs. Similar Religion. Several standard sex differences replicated across cultures, including women’s greater valuation of social status and men’s greater valuation of physical attractiveness. We present culture-specific ratings on the universal dimensions across-sex and between-sex to facilitate future cross-cultural work on human mating psychology.
Universal dimensions of human mate preferences
Todd K. Shackelford
a,*
, David P. Schmitt
b
, David M. Buss
c
a
Florida Atlantic University, Department of Psychology, 2912 College Avenue, Davie, FL 33314, United States
b
Bradley University, United States
c
The University of Texas, United States
Received 3 August 2004; received in revised form 1 December 2004; accepted 31 January 2005
Available online 18 March 2005
Abstract
To identify the universal dimensions of long-term mate preferences, we used an archival database of
preference ratings provided by several thousand participants from three dozen cultures [Buss, D. M.
(1989)]. Participants from each culture responded to the same 18-item measure. Statistical procedures
ensured that ratings provided by men and women were weighted equally, and that ratings provided by par-
ticipants from each culture were weighted equally. We identified four universal dimensions: Love vs. Status/
Resources; Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health; Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Chil-
dren; and Sociability vs. Similar Religion. Several standard sex differences replicated across cultures, includ-
ing womenÕs greater valuation of social status and menÕs greater valuation of physical attractiveness. We
present culture-specific ratings on the universal dimensions across-sex and between-sex to facilitate future
cross-cultural work on human mating psychology.
2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Mate preferences; Cross-cultural analyses; Sex differences
1. Introduction
A great deal of research has examined the characteristics that men and women desire in a long-
term mate (for reviews, see Buss, 1998, 2003; Gangestad & Simpson, 2000; Okami & Shackelford,
0191-8869/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.01.023
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 954 236 1179; fax: +1 954 236 1099.
E-mail address: tshackel@fau.edu (T.K. Shackelford).
www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
2001). This research routinely shows that men and women differ in several mate preferences. For
example, across several decades of assessments, across different methodologies, and across differ-
ent cultures, men more than women value physical attractiveness in a long-term mate, whereas
women more than men value good financial prospects in a long-term mate (Buss, 1989; Buss,
Shackelford, Kirkpatrick, & Larsen, 2001; Hill, 1945; Hoyt & Hudson, 1981; Hudson & Henze,
1969; Kenrick, Groth, Trost, & Sadalla, 1993; McGinnis, 1958; Wiederman & Allgeier, 1992).
There also are similarities—across time, methodologies, and cultures—in the importance that
men and women place on characteristics in a mate. For example, both men and women place a
premium on the characteristics of ‘‘pleasing disposition’’ and ‘‘emotional stability’’ (Buss, 1989).
The existing literature on mate preferences relies on participantsÕvaluations of specific charac-
teristics, with each characteristic rated as a single item. Unfortunately, the number and quality of
items varies across studies, as do the sampling and demographic attributes of participants. The
most widely used mate preference listing includes 18 characteristics, first administered to a college
sample in 1939 (Hill, 1945) and used subsequently to assess the mate preferences of college stu-
dents and community members in many studies over the past six decades (e.g., Buss et al.,
2001; Hoyt & Hudson, 1981; Hudson & Henze, 1969; McGinnis, 1958), including a cross-cultural
study of nearly 10,000 participants in 37 samples (Buss, 1989). Other lists of mate preferences also
have become popular, ranging in size from 15 to over 75 individually rated items (Buss & Barnes,
1986; Goodwin & Tang, 1991; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992).
A few studies have investigated whether a smaller set of dimensions might underlie larger sets of
preferences. Researchers usually address this issue by submitting ratings of numerous mate pref-
erence characteristics to factor analyses or principal component analyses. For example, Simpson
and Gangestad (1992) factor analyzed ratings of 15 characteristics and identified two dimensions
of mate preference, which they labeled Personal/Parenting Qualities and Attractiveness/Social Vis-
ibility. Goodwin and Tang (1991) also used ratings on 15 preferences and found that three dimen-
sions best explained variability in preference ratings, which they labeled Kindness/Consideration,
Extraversion, and Sensitivity.
Other researchers have analyzed larger lists of characteristics in hopes of finding a basic
structure of mate preferences. Buss and Barnes (1986) and Fletcher, Simpson, Thomas, and
Giles (1999) submitted ratings on more than 75 attributes to factor analyses. Buss and Barnes
identified nine dimensions of mate preference, including Kind–Considerate, Socially Exciting,
and Easygoing–Adaptable. Fletcher et al. found only three dimensions were needed to explain
mate preference variability: Warmth–Trustworthiness, Vitality–Attractiveness, and Status–
Resources.
Much of the previous work that sought to identify a core set of underlying mate preference
dimensions has varied in terms of which preferences are rated, how many preferences are rated,
the nature and size of the samples assessed and, consequently, the nature and number of under-
lying dimensions identified. Despite these differences, a few dimensions identified in this method-
ologically diverse research share common features. Several studies have identified, for example,
dimensions of ‘‘kindness, warmth’’ (e.g., Buss & Barnes, 1986; Fletcher et al., 1999; Goodwin
& Tang, 1991; Regan, Levin, Sprecher, Christopher, & Cate, 2000), ‘‘social status, financial re-
sources’’ (e.g., Buss & Barnes, 1986; Fletcher et al., 1999; Kenrick, Sadalla, Groth, & Trost,
1990; Parmer, 1998; Regan et al., 2000), and ‘‘attractiveness, health’’ (e.g., Fletcher et al., 1999;
Kenrick et al., 1990; Parmer, 1998; Regan et al., 2000; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992).
448 T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
The recurrent emergence of qualitatively similar factors or components suggests the possibility
of a core set of universal mate preference dimensions. We sought to determine with greater cer-
tainty than has been afforded by previous research whether a smaller set of dimensions underlie
ratings to a large set of mate preferences. The current research used an archival database of pref-
erence ratings provided by several thousand participants located on six continents and five islands
(Buss, 1989).
2. Method
2.1. Participants
Participants were 4499 men and 5310 women from 37 cultures located on six continents and five
islands. Men ranged in age from 17 to 30 years, with a mean age of 23.3 years. Women ranged in
age from 17 to 30 years with a mean age of 22.6 years. Eighty-six percent of men and of women
were currently not married.
2.2. Materials and procedure
The survey used to assess mate preferences was developed by Hill (1945). In this survey, par-
ticipants rate the importance of 18 mate characteristics (see Table 1) on the following 4-point
scale: 3 points = indispensable,2=important,1=desirable, but not very important, and 0=irrele-
vant or unimportant. Instructions were provided to each collaborator for translating the instru-
ment into the appropriate language for their sample (see Buss, 1989, for further details).
3. Results
A goal of this research was to identify universal mate preference dimensions. We identified
these dimensions following the analysis strategy outlined by Bond (1988), which is ideal for iden-
tifying a universal structure that might underlie item-level data provided by participants from dif-
ferent cultures. Importantly, BondÕs strategy helps to identify an underlying structure that is
equally applicable to both sexes and to each culture represented by participants. All analyses re-
ferred to but not presented in the Results are available upon request.
The analysis strategy begins by identifying the smallest number of participants of either sex who
provided data from a single sample. This sample size is then used to select data from participants
of each sex and from each sample for inclusion in subsequent analyses. The smallest number of
participants in any one sample and of either sex was 44 (excluding one sample, Iran, which in-
cluded just 27 males. Excluding Iran does not change substantively the resulting underlying struc-
ture. By excluding Iran from this initial step, we increased by 63% the sample size on which the
principal component analyses are based, from 1998 to 3168). The second step is to select at
random from each sample the number of participants identified in the first step. We selected at
random 44 males and 44 females from each of the 36 samples. This produced a sample
of 44 ·2·36 = 3168 (1584 participants of each sex). The third step is to standardize each
T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458 449
Table 1
Mean factor scores (standard deviations) for mate preference components
Sample Sample size Mate preference component
1234
Africa
Nigeria
Men 120 1.50 (0.47)
*
1.41 (0.41)
*
1.44 (0.54)
*
2.07 (0.61)
Women 57 1.14 (0.37) 1.85 (0.36) 1.72 (0.35) 1.96 (0.52)
Across sex 177 1.32 (0.42) 1.63 (0.39) 1.58 (0.45) 2.02 (0.57)
South Africa: Whites
Men 48 2.00 (0.42)
*
1.84 (0.26)
*
1.61 (0.48) 2.11 (0.56)
Women 81 1.61 (0.40) 2.00 (0.29) 1.79 (0.39) 2.22 (0.46)
Across sex 129 1.81 (0.41) 1.92 (0.28) 1.70 (0.44) 2.17 (0.51)
South Africa: Zulus
Men 46 1.78 (0.43) 1.74 (0.33)
*
1.53 (0.35) 2.22 (0.61)
Women 51 1.78 (0.40) 2.01 (0.27) 1.53 (0.34) 1.94 (0.55)
Across sex 97 1.78 (0.42) 1.88 (0.30) 1.53 (0.35) 2.08 (0.58)
Zambia
Men 70 1.65 (0.45)
*
1.60 (0.31)
*
1.30 (0.45)
*
2.14 (0.57)
Women 51 1.36 (0.39) 1.87 (0.33) 1.50 (0.41) 1.92 (0.60)
Across sex 121 1.51 (0.42) 1.74 (0.32) 1.40 (0.43) 2.03 (0.59)
Asia
China
Men 265 1.73 (0.49)
*
1.51 (0.14)
*
1.03 (0.35)
*
1.91 (0.47)
*
Women 235 1.41 (0.42) 1.71 (0.13) 1.21 (0.29) 2.08 (0.41)
Across sex 500 1.57 (0.46) 1.61 (0.14) 1.12 (0.32) 2.00 (0.44)
India
Men 54 1.61 (0.53)
*
1.48 (0.32) 1.26 (0.50)
*
1.99 (0.43)
Women 97 1.30 (0.42) 1.56 (0.42) 1.48 (0.44) 1.89 (0.53)
Across sex 151 1.46 (0.48) 1.52 (0.37) 1.37 (0.47) 1.94 (0.48)
Indonesia
Men 88 1.80 (0.44)
*
1.58 (0.25)
*
1.26 (0.39)
*
1.83 (0.44)
Women 56 1.32 (0.36) 2.00 (0.22) 1.52 (0.46) 1.76 (0.32)
Across sex 144 1.56 (0.40) 1.79 (0.24) 1.39 (0.43) 1.80 (0.38)
Iran
Men 28 1.57 (0.49) 1.71 (0.29)
*
1.30 (0.36) 1.95 (0.55)
Women 27 1.29 (0.40) 2.05 (0.25) 1.57 (0.47) 2.19 (0.42)
Across sex 55 1.43 (0.45) 1.88 (0.27) 1.44 (0.42) 2.07 (0.49)
Israel: Jewish
Men 206 1.80 (0.58)
*
1.78 (0.33)
*
1.57 (0.52)
*
2.12 (0.60)
Women 271 1.46 (0.49) 1.97 (0.30) 1.78 (0.41) 2.12 (0.47)
Across sex 477 1.63 (0.54) 1.88 (0.32) 1.68 (0.47) 2.12 (0.54)
450 T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
Table 1 (continued)
Sample Sample size Mate preference component
1234
Israel: Palestinian
Men 54 1.68 (0.52) 1.66 (0.32)
*
1.44 (0.50)
*
2.19 (0.50)
Women 56 1.47 (0.46) 1.99 (0.29) 1.90 (0.44) 1.98 (0.39)
Across sex 110 1.58 (0.49) 1.83 (0.31) 1.67 (0.47) 2.09 (0.45)
Japan
Men 106 2.08 (0.42)
*
1.56 (0.21)
*
0.96 (0.35)
*
2.23 (0.43)
Women 153 1.38 (0.33) 1.89 (0.22) 1.37 (0.36) 2.32 (0.42)
Across sex 259 1.73 (0.38) 1.73 (0.22) 1.17 (0.36) 2.28 (0.43)
Korea
Men 100 1.98 (0.41)
*
1.67 (0.28)
*
1.37 (0.48) 2.09 (0.55)
Women 102 1.42 (0.41) 1.84 (0.24) 1.51 (0.33) 2.22 (0.48)
Across sex 202 1.70 (0.41) 1.76 (0.26) 1.44 (0.41) 2.16 (0.52)
Taiwan
Men 288 1.82 (0.43)
*
1.65 (0.24)
*
1.30 (0.38)
*
2.08 (0.50)
Women 280 1.28 (0.36) 1.95 (0.21) 1.58 (0.33) 2.15 (0.48)
Across sex 568 1.55 (0.40) 1.80 (0.23) 1.44 (0.36) 2.12 (0.49)
Europe: Eastern
Bulgaria
Men 127 1.92 (0.49)
*
1.53 (0.28)
*
1.62 (0.42) 2.29 (0.49)
Women 142 1.60 (0.46) 1.76 (0.28) 1.73 (0.46) 2.27 (0.60)
Across sex 269 1.76 (0.48) 1.65 (0.28) 1.68 (0.44) 2.28 (0.55)
Estonia
Men 155 1.73 (0.38) 1.50 (0.31)
*
1.27 (0.42)
*
2.31 (0.44)
Women 153 1.67 (0.39) 1.78 (0.28) 1.44 (0.42) 2.26 (0.47)
Across sex 308 1.70 (0.39) 1.64 (0.30) 1.36 (0.42) 2.29 (0.46)
Poland
Men 122 1.99 (0.46)
*
1.71 (0.30)
*
1.37 (0.47)
*
2.03 (0.54)
Women 120 1.61 (0.48) 1.96 (0.27) 1.66 (0.46) 2.05 (0.55)
Across sex 242 1.80 (0.47) 1.84 (0.29) 1.52 (0.47) 2.04 (0.55)
Yugoslavia
Men 66 1.91 (0.46)
*
1.68 (0.31)
*
1.65 (0.35)
*
2.31 (0.54)
Women 74 1.66 (0.43) 1.96 (0.28) 1.88 (0.33) 2.42 (0.47)
Across sex 140 1.79 (0.45) 1.82 (0.30) 1.77 (0.34) 2.37 (0.51)
Europe: Western
Belgium
Men 55 2.01 (0.47) 1.77 (0.29)
*
1.73 (0.43) 2.00 (0.59)
*
Women 91 1.85 (0.50) 2.00 (0.31) 1.67 (0.42) 2.25 (0.46)
Across sex 146 1.93 (0.49) 1.89 (0.30) 1.70 (0.43) 2.13 (0.53)
(continued on next page)
T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458 451
Table 1 (continued)
Sample Sample size Mate preference component
1234
Finland
Men 55 2.23 (0.47)
*
1.78 (0.27)
*
1.60 (0.43) 2.40 (0.49)
Women 149 2.03 (0.50) 1.92 (0.27) 1.64 (0.44) 2.35 (0.47)
Across sex 204 2.13 (0.49) 1.85 (0.27) 1.62 (0.44) 2.38 (0.48)
France
Men 100 2.02 (0.58)
*
1.64 (0.30)
*
1.43 (0.42) 2.59 (0.45)
Women 93 1.79 (0.57) 1.87 (0.28) 1.58 (0.49) 2.53 (0.43)
Across sex 193 1.91 (0.58) 1.76 (0.29) 1.51 (0.46) 2.56 (0.44)
Great Britain
Men 46 2.28 (0.41)
*
1.58 (0.33)
*
1.74 (0.55) 2.17 (0.59)
Women 85 2.04 (0.45) 1.77 (0.25) 1.80 (0.43) 2.23 (0.48)
Across sex 131 2.16 (0.43) 1.68 (0.29) 1.77 (0.49) 2.20 (0.54)
Greece
Men 68 1.96 (0.58)
*
1.61 (0.40) 1.83 (0.50)
*
2.41 (0.50)
Women 65 1.65 (0.55) 1.75 (0.35) 2.10 (0.42) 2.35 (0.52)
Across sex 133 1.81 (0.57) 1.68 (0.38) 1.97 (0.46) 2.38 (0.51)
Ireland
Men 55 2.21 (0.48)
*
1.77 (0.28)
*
1.13 (0.42) 2.22 (0.51)
Women 67 1.87 (0.47) 1.92 (0.25) 1.16 (0.41) 2.14 (0.40)
Across sex 122 2.04 (0.48) 1.85 (0.27) 1.15 (0.42) 2.18 (0.46)
Italy
Men 46 2.23 (0.37)
*
1.77 (0.32) 1.81 (0.44) 2.40 (0.42)
Women 56 1.96 (0.50) 1.88 (0.26) 1.98 (0.36) 2.52 (0.46)
Across sex 102 2.10 (0.44) 1.83 (0.29) 1.90 (0.40) 2.46 (0.44)
Netherlands
Men 179 2.25 (0.49) 1.80 (0.30) 1.84 (0.42) 2.58 (0.43)
Women 240 2.16 (0.50) 1.83 (0.32) 1.80 (0.40) 2.55 (0.45)
Across sex 419 2.21 (0.50) 1.82 (0.31) 1.82 (0.41) 2.57 (0.44)
Norway
Men 69 2.09 (0.48) 1.81 (0.29) 1.62 (0.44) 2.14 (0.50)
Women 67 1.91 (0.52) 1.83 (0.27) 1.67 (0.46) 2.11 (0.54)
Across sex 136 2.00 (0.50) 1.82 (0.28) 1.65 (0.45) 2.13 (0.52)
Spain
Men 44 1.93 (0.56) 1.38 (0.23)
*
1.84 (0.44) 2.02 (0.49)
Women 80 1.85 (0.51) 1.62 (0.31) 1.92 (0.39) 2.11 (0.49)
Across sex 124 1.89 (0.54) 1.50 (0.27) 1.88 (0.42) 2.07 (0.49)
Sweden
Men 89 2.03 (0.48)
*
1.76 (0.30) 1.67 (0.36) 2.22 (0.55)
Women 83 1.83 (0.45) 1.83 (0.32) 1.59 (0.45) 2.39 (0.51)
Across sex 172 1.93 (0.47) 1.80 (0.31) 1.63 (0.41) 2.31 (0.53)
452 T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
Table 1 (continued)
Sample Sample size Mate preference component
1234
West Germany
Men 364 2.11 (0.50)
*
1.68 (0.29)
*
1.80 (0.45)
*
2.33 (0.48)
Women 388 1.80 (0.55) 1.91 (0.28) 1.94 (0.44) 2.31 (0.48)
Across sex 752 1.96 (0.53) 1.80 (0.29) 1.87 (0.45) 2.32 (0.48)
North America
Canada
Men 56 2.01 (0.44)
*
1.71 (0.27) 1.44 (0.36)
*
2.24 (0.47)
Women 45 1.53 (0.46) 1.81 (0.21) 1.67 (0.42) 2.33 (0.48)
Across sex 101 1.77 (0.45) 1.76 (0.24) 1.56 (0.39) 2.29 (0.48)
United States: Mainland
Men 641 1.96 (0.47)
*
1.71 (0.26)
*
1.55 (0.45)
*
2.17 (0.47)
Women 855 1.51 (0.45) 1.90 (0.25) 1.73 (0.40) 2.20 (0.48)
Across sex 1,496 1.74 (0.46) 1.81 (0.26) 1.64 (0.43) 2.19 (0.48)
United States: Hawaii
Men 66 1.76 (0.47)
*
1.63 (0.25)
*
1.42 (0.40)
*
2.25 (0.48)
Women 113 1.49 (0.42) 1.85 (0.26) 1.60 (0.44) 2.12 (0.50)
Across sex 179 1.63 (0.45) 1.74 (0.26) 1.51 (0.42) 2.19 (0.49)
Oceana
Australia
Men 78 2.22 (0.43)
*
1.72 (0.26)
*
1.49 (0.52) 2.20 (0.50)
Women 202 1.85 (0.48) 1.89 (0.28) 1.58 (0.45) 2.26 (0.46)
Across sex 280 2.04 (0.46) 1.81 (0.27) 1.54 (0.49) 2.23 (0.48)
New Zealand
Men 75 1.90 (0.46) 1.69 (0.31)
*
1.47 (0.41) 2.16 (0.51)
Women 76 1.85 (0.40) 1.84 (0.28) 1.46 (0.49) 2.13 (0.47)
Across sex 151 1.88 (0.43) 1.77 (0.30) 1.47 (0.45) 2.15 (0.49)
South America
Brazil
Men 277 2.01 (0.50)
*
1.72 (0.28)
*
1.62 (0.45)
*
2.34 (0.51)
Women 355 1.62 (0.48) 1.86 (0.31) 1.83 (0.43) 2.37 (0.48)
Across sex 632 1.82 (0.49) 1.79 (0.30) 1.73 (0.44) 2.36 (0.50)
Colombia
Men 66 1.46 (0.52) 1.46 (0.31)
*
1.54 (0.39)
*
2.23 (0.61)
Women 79 1.36 (0.47) 1.66 (0.32) 1.94 (0.35) 2.18 (0.49)
Across sex 145 1.41 (0.50) 1.56 (0.32) 1.75 (0.37) 2.21 (0.55)
Venezuela
a
Men 90 1.65 (0.52)
*
1.52 (0.30)
*
1.47 (0.39)
*
N/A
Women 98 1.35 (0.45) 1.77 (0.32) 1.66 (0.44) N/A
Across sex 188 1.50 (0.49) 1.65 (0.31) 1.57 (0.42) N/A
(continued on next page)
T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458 453
participantÕs 18 ratings, which eliminates individual-level and sample-level response sets, while
retaining the ordering of preference importance. The fourth step is to ‘‘deculture’’ the data by
standardizing responses to each mate preference within each sample separately.
We then conducted principal components analyses (followed by varimax rotation) on the
now doubly-standardized ratings for the 18 mate preferences provided by the cross-cultural
sample of 3168 participants. An interpretable solution emerged when we extracted and rotated
four components that accounted for about 35% of the variance in ratings. Each preference
loaded at least j0.30jon one and only one component. Each component includes at least
one preference that loads positively and at least one preference that loads negatively. We
therefore labeled the components as if each described a dichotomy (following Bond, 1988).
Each component therefore can be described as a ‘‘trade-off’’ between one set of preferences
and another.
Component 1 (eigenvalue = 2.02; factor loadings in parentheses) accounts for 10.0% of the
inter-item variance in preference ratings, and includes ‘‘good financial prospects’’ (0.65), ‘‘favor-
able social status or ratings’’ (0.62), and ‘‘ambition and industriousness’’ (0.41), each of which
loads negatively. This component also includes ‘‘mutual attraction—love’’ (0.49), which loads
positively. We labeled this component ‘‘Love vs. Status/Resources.’’ The emergence of this dimen-
sion suggests that people make psychological trade-offs between searching for mutual love (e.g., a
‘‘Communion’’ style of romance) and searching for someone with status and resources (e.g., an
‘‘Instrumental’’ style of romance; Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987).
Component 2 (eigenvalue = 1.62) accounts for 8.6% of the inter-item variance in preference rat-
ings, and includes ‘‘good looks’’ (0.65), ‘‘good cook and housekeeper’’ (0.45), and ‘‘good
health’’ (0.41), each of which loads negatively. This component also includes ‘‘dependable char-
acter’’ (0.39), ‘‘emotional stability and maturity’’ (0.39), and ‘‘refinement, neatness’’ (0.30), each
of which loads positively. We labeled this component ‘‘Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/
Health.’’ The emergence of this dimension suggests that people make psychological trade-offs be-
tween physical appearance and a stable personality.
Component 3 (eigenvalue = 1.32) accounts for 8.6% of the inter-item variance in preference rat-
ings, and includes ‘‘education and intelligence’’ (0.68), ‘‘similar educational background’’ (0.56),
and ‘‘similar political background’’ (0.37), each of which loads positively. This component also
includes ‘‘desire for home and children’’ (0.55) and ‘‘chastity’’ (0.38), each of which loads neg-
atively. We labeled this component ‘‘Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children.’’ The
emergence of this dimension suggests that a trade-off is sometimes made between educational fac-
tors and family matters.
Table 1 (continued)
Note: See text for a full description of how the components were generated. Component 1 = Love vs. Status/Resources,
Component 2 = Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health, Component 3 = Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for
Home/Children, Component 4 = Sociability vs. Similar Religion.
*
p< .0125 (two-tailed), indicating a statistically significant sex difference in mean composite score, as calculated by
independent means t-test. To reduce the Type I error rate, awas reduced from .05 to .05/4 (four tests per
sample) = .0125.
a
For the Venezuelan sample, all participants are missing data for ‘‘sociability’’ and for ‘‘pleasing disposition,’’ two of
the three preferences that comprise component 4. Sums for component 4 therefore are not computed for the Venezuelan
sample.
454 T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
Component 4 (eigenvalue = 1.27) accounts for 7.4% of the inter-item variance in preference rat-
ings, and includes ‘‘sociability’’ (0.54) and ‘‘pleasing disposition’’ (0.53), each of which loads pos-
itively. This component also includes ‘‘similar religious background’’ (0.56), which loads
negatively. We labeled this component ‘‘Sociability vs. Similar Religion.’’ Apparently, a psycho-
logical trade-off exists between preferring someone who is sociable and preferring someone who is
religiously compatible.
We calculated component scores by a unit-weighted summation of ratings on the constituent
preferences. The four components are relatively independent of one another, with absolute val-
ues for component inter-correlations ranging from a low of 0.01 between components 1 and 2
to a high of 0.15 between components 3 and 4. Table 1 presents mean scores and standard
deviations for the mate preference components across-sex and separately for men and for
women, for each of the samples in the database. We use these data to investigate sample-spe-
cific sex differences in valuation of the mate preference dimensions. Buss (1989) used this data-
base to assess sex differences along each of the 18 constituent mate preferences. Our goal in
the current research is to investigate whether the sexes differ along a broader-based set of mate
preference dimensions.
We began the investigation of sample-specific sex differences by first conducting a 2 (sex of par-
ticipant) ·37 (sample) Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) in which mean scores for
the four mate preference components were entered as a set of dependent variables. This analysis
revealed significant multivariate effects for sex [F(4, 9662) = 423.34] and sample [F(36, 9665) =
111.00], and an interaction between sex and sample [F(36, 9665) = 10.29, all ps < .001]. Tests of
component-level between-subjects effects for sex and for sample revealed significant effects
for sex on the first three components [component 1: F(1, 9665) = 585.09; component 2:
F(1, 9665) = 844.66; component 3: F(1, 9665) = 244.36; all ps < .001]. Men provided higher ratings
than did women on the first component, whereas women provided higher ratings than did men on
the second and third components [mean (standard deviation) for men and women, respectively,
for component 1: 1.93 (0.51), 1.62 (0.52); for component 2: 1.66 (0.30), 1.87 (0.29); for component
3: 1.49 (0.49), 1.68 (0.45)]. Men and women did not differ significantly in ratings provided on the
fourth component [mean (standard deviation) for men and women, respectively: 2.19 (0.55), 2.22
(0.52); F(1, 9665) = 0.22, p> .05].
We next investigated whether the sexes differed in valuation of the mate preference dimensions
for some samples but not others. We present in Table 1 the results of these sample-specific tests of
sex differences for all four dimensions, recognizing that the omnibus tests for sex differences
yielded significant effects only for the first three dimensions. To reduce the Type I error rate,
we reduced afrom .05 to .05/4 (four tests per sample) = .0125 (two-tailed). For 27 of the 37 sam-
ples, the sexes differed significantly in the importance placed on the first dimension—Love vs. Sta-
tus/Resources. In each case, men provided higher importance ratings than did women. For 30 of
the 37 samples, the sexes differed significantly in the importance placed on the second dimension—
Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health. In each case, women provided higher importance rat-
ings than did men. For 20 of the 37 samples, the sexes differed significantly in the importance
placed on the third dimension—Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children. In each
case, women provided higher importance ratings than did men. Finally, for just two of the 37 sam-
ples, the sexes differed significantly in the importance placed on the fourth dimension—Sociability
vs. Similar Religion. In both cases, women provided higher importance ratings than did men.
T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458 455
4. Discussion
Using an archival database of preference ratings provided by several thousand participants
from several dozen samples located on six continents and five islands (Buss, 1989), we identified
four universal mate preference dimensions. Participants varied tremendously along demographic
variables such as educational level, ethnicity, religious background, and in the political and eco-
nomic systems in which they live and work (see Buss, 1989). The statistical analysis strategy we
used (following Bond, 1988) ensured that the resulting dimensions are applicable to both sexes
and to people residing in each culture represented in this large database. The four dimensions
are largely independent and account for about 35% of variance in inter-preference ratings. The
degree to which the pancultural solution approximates any particular within-culture solution will
vary, of course. Researchers interested in conducting analyses within a particular culture might
first conduct within-culture analyses to identify the specific dimensions and constituent prefer-
ences that best capture the preference ratings for that particular culture.
Across the samples in this database, the sexes differed along three of the four dimensions. Men
provided higher ratings than did women on Love vs. Status/Resources, indicating that women
more than men value social status and financial resources in a long-term mate, consistent with
previous work (reviewed in Buss, 2003; Okami & Shackelford, 2001). Women provided higher rat-
ings than did men on Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health and on Education/Intelligence
vs. Desire for Home/Children. These sex differences indicate that, consistent with previous work
(reviewed in Buss, 2003; Okami & Shackelford, 2001), women around the world value dependabil-
ity, stability, education, and intelligence in a long-term mate more than do men. Conversely, men
more than women value in potential mates their good looks, health, and a desire for home and
children.
The four dimensions parallel several factors that have emerged recurrently in smaller-scale
attempts to identify the underlying structure of mate preferences. The ‘‘Status/Resources’’ pole
of the first dimension is similar in quality to a dimension of ‘‘social status, financial resources’’
identified in previous work (e.g., Buss & Barnes, 1986; Fletcher et al., 1999; Kenrick et al., 1990;
Parmer, 1998; Regan et al., 2000). The ‘‘Good Looks/Health’’ pole of the second dimension is
similar to an ‘‘attractiveness, health’’ dimension identified in previous work (e.g., Fletcher et al.,
1999; Kenrick et al., 1990; Parmer, 1998; Regan et al., 2000; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992).
Finally, the ‘‘Sociability’’ pole of the fourth dimension is similar in quality to a dimension of
‘‘kindness, warmth’’ identified in previous work (e.g., Buss & Barnes, 1986; Fletcher et al.,
1999; Goodwin & Tang, 1991; Regan et al., 2000). The correspondence between the dimensions
of mate preferences identified in the current work and several dimensions identified recurrently
in smaller-scale studies suggests that all of this work is tapping at least a few robust dimensions
of mate preferences. The current research relied on a database of mate preference ratings
unprecedented in size and cross-cultural representation. The four dimensions identified in the
current research, therefore, may be the best available approximation of universal mate prefer-
ence dimensions.
The current research was not intended to extend theoretical analyses of human mate prefer-
ences (for reviews, see Buss, 1998, 2003; Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Gangestad & Simpson, 2000),
but instead was designed to determine with greater certainty than has been afforded by previous
work whether a small set of dimensions underlie human mate preferences. This research is the first
456 T.K. Shackelford et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 39 (2005) 447–458
to identify the cross-culturally universal structure of human mate preferences, using a database
that includes the preference ratings of several thousand men and women from around the world.
Prior to this research, researchers interested in investigating mate preferences across different cul-
tures had to rely on unstandardized listings of individual preferences, or on a set of underlying
dimensions identified in small-scale samples comprised primarily of American college students.
The current research rectifies these methodological problems by identifying a small set of mate
preference dimensions derived from the preference ratings of several thousand men and women
residing in more than three dozen cultures. Finally, the results of the current research allow for
across-nation or across-culture analyses in which societal predictors (for example, Gross National
Product/capita) are linked to the average male-female scores on each of the preference dimensions
to thus begin providing insights into why one end of a particular preference dimension is empha-
sized more in one nation or culture than in another.
Acknowledgement
The authors thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments and suggestions that im-
proved this article.
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In four studies, we used the Sexual Attitudes Scale, a new multidimensional instrument, and (a) concluded final construction of the scale, (b) assessed the relationships between the scale and three criterion measures, and (c) provided initial construct validation of the instrument through demonstrated relationships with several relevant psychosocial variables and personality/attitude measures. The instrument was initially administered to a large sample (N = 807); the scores were factor analyzed, and scales were defined. A refined version was cross validated on another large sample (N = 567), with results that mostly replicated earlier results. The Sexual Attitudes Scale was then given to another sample (N = 105), along with the Sexual Opinion Survey, the Reiss Male and Female Premarital Permissiveness Scales, and the sex‐guilt subscale of the Revised Mosher Guilt Inventory. Results showed the Sexual Attitudes Scale to have moderate and conceptually consistent correlations with these other scales. Additional results from three studies revealed significant relationships between subjects' sexual attitudes and relevant demographic/psychosocial variables (e.g., gender, love experience) and demonstrated substantial links between the Sexual Attitudes Scale and measures of related concepts such as sensation seeking and love attitudes. The Sexual Attitudes Scale is a psychometrically sound new scale assessing Sexual Permissiveness, Sexual Practices, Communion, and Instrumentality.
Article
This study seems to suggest that, over the last ten years at least, several important changes have taken place. Students in this sample appear to be less concerned with the home and children aspects of family life and more concerned with the social aspects. They want more intelligent and better educated mates. Men are much more interested in a woman's looks than in knowing if she is a good cook and housekeeper. Chastity does not seem to be of great concern to either sex and in this sense it does appear that these students have departed from traditional values. The differences emerging in important characteristics in mate selection reflect changes in sex roles, influence by the mass media, increased idealization of romantic love, and current social and economic conditions.