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Patterns and Universals of Mate Poaching Across 53 Nations: The Effects of Sex, Culture, and Personality on Romantically Attracting Another Person's Partner.

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As part of the International Sexuality Description Project, 16,954 participants from 53 nations were administered an anonymous survey about experiences with romantic attraction. Mate poaching- romantically attracting someone who is already in a relationship-was most common in Southern Europe, South America, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe and was relatively infrequent in Africa, South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Evolutionary and social-role hypotheses received empirical support. Men were more likely than women to report having made and succumbed to short-term poaching across all regions, but differences between men and women were often smaller in more gender-egalitarian regions. People who try to steal another's mate possess similar personality traits across all regions, as do those who frequently receive and succumb to the poaching attempts by others. The authors conclude that human mate-poaching experiences are universally linked to sex, culture, and the robust influence of personal dispositions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Patterns and Universals of Mate Poaching Across 53 Nations:
The Effects of Sex, Culture, and Personality on Romantically Attracting
Another Person’s Partner
David P. Schmitt
Bradley University
and 121 Members of the International Sexuality Description Project
As part of the International Sexuality Description Project, 16,954 participants from 53 nations were
administered an anonymous survey about experiences with romantic attraction. Mate poaching—
romantically attracting someone who is already in a relationship—was most common in Southern
Europe, South America, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe and was relatively infrequent in Africa,
South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Evolutionary and social-role hypotheses received empirical support.
Men were more likely than women to report having made and succumbed to short-term poaching across
all regions, but differences between men and women were often smaller in more gender-egalitarian
regions. People who try to steal another’s mate possess similar personality traits across all regions, as do
those who frequently receive and succumb to the poaching attempts by others. The authors conclude that
human mate-poaching experiences are universally linked to sex, culture, and the robust influence of
personal dispositions.
When people feel romantic desire toward another person, they
often act in special ways in hopes of attracting that person. They
might try to enhance their appearance by wearing attractive
clothes, engage in a lively conversation and try to present them-
selves in a positive light, or make an attempt at derogating the
romantic competition in order to improve their relative standing
(Schmitt & Buss, 1996; Tooke & Camire, 1991). Occasionally, the
romantic competition has a decided head start. The desired partner
may be regularly dating another person or have just embarked on
a new romantic relationship. The object of affection may be
married, recently engaged, or currently living with a partner.
Trying to attract someone who is already in a romantic relationship
is known as the process of mate poaching (Schmitt & Buss, 2001),
and it is a process filled with many special challenges and potential
pitfalls.
One of the central challenges of mate poaching is that many of
the more effective tactics in general romantic attraction seem to
backfire in the context of mate poaching, especially those that
involve derogating competitors (Schmitt & Buss, 2001). Instead of
using direct tactics, many mate poachers are forced to use indirect
means of gaining romantic favor, such as giving furtive glances,
slowly invading the target’s social networks, and planting subtle
seeds of dissatisfaction within the existing relationship. Some
tactics appear to work well in regard to mate poaching, such as
men’s use of status and resource-related tactics (Schmitt, 2002).
Almost all mate-poaching tactics must be used with caution, how-
ever. The use of openly flirtatious poaching tactics, for example,
can stir the wrath of the person’s current partner and likely would
be seen as inappropriate by the larger community. Indeed, many
people feel that the entire process of mate poaching is unethical at
its core, especially those that have felt the sting of losing a
romantic partner at the hands of a friend or colleague (Schmitt &
Buss, 2001).
Despite the prohibitive difficulties associated with mate poach-
ing, recent evidence suggests that poaching does occur, with most
people reporting that they have experienced poaching-related at-
traction in one form or another (Schmitt & Buss, 2001). In prac-
tice, mate poaching often takes the form of a short-term sexual
seduction. Short-term mate poachers seek to elicit only a brief
adulterous desertion by the already-mated partner. At times, the
mate poacher may desire a more enduring relationship defection,
perhaps even the establishment of a new, long-term alliance with
the mating target. In most cases, the short-term and long-term
targets of mate poachers regard romantic attempts by prospective
suitors as either mildly flattering or, at worst, unwelcome attention
(Schmitt & Buss, 2001). However, mate poaching also can result
from active and explicit solicitations made by those sexually or
David P. Schmitt, Department of Psychology, Bradley University, and
121 members of the International Sexuality Description Project. A com-
plete list of the coauthors, listed alphabetically, can be found at the end of
this article.
We thank Susan Sprecher (United States of America), Del Paulhus
(Canada), Glenn D. Wilson (England), Qazi Rahman (England), Tamio
Imagawa (Japan), Minoru Wada (Japan), Junichi Taniguchi (Japan), and
Yuji Kanemasa (Japan) for helping with data collection and for contribut-
ing significantly to the samples used in this study. In addition, we acknowl-
edge the work of Vijai N. Giri (India), Hmoud Olimat (Jordan), Mithila B.
Sharan (India), and Robin Taylor (Fiji), who were part of the International
Sexuality Description Project but did not collect information on human
mate poaching. Finally, we thank Robert Fowler, Trisha Pasdach, and
Andrea Kittell for their comments on an earlier version of this article.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David P.
Schmitt, Department of Psychology, Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625.
E-mail: dps@bradley.edu
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Copyright 2004 by the American Psychological Association
2004, Vol. 86, No. 4, 560–584 0022-3514/04/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.86.4.560
560
emotionally unsatisfied with their current relationships (Glass &
Wright, 1985; Grosskopf, 1983). In these cases, it is the poaching
targets themselves who actively seek out would-be poachers, either
enticing a singular night of adulterous passion or safely securing a
more permanent marital replacement (Schmitt & Shackelford,
2003).
Whether short-term or long-term, unwelcome or solicited, mate
poaching typically involves an intricate web of social deception,
interpersonal conflict, and intense emotionality (Shackelford,
1997; Shackelford & Buss, 1996; Shackelford, LeBlanc, & Drass,
2000). Although much is known about romantic attraction, infi-
delity, and the emotion of betrayal in isolation (e.g., Buss, 2000;
Moore, 1995; Tennov, 1999; Tooke & Camire, 1991; Walters &
Crawford, 1994), only recently has there been a concerted effort to
understand how each interacts within the unique context of mate
poaching (Bleske & Shackelford, 2001). Also at issue has been
whether mate poaching is a distinct evolutionary strategy or
whether poaching-related attraction simply follows from more
general adaptive desires and basic human mating strategies
(Schmitt & Buss, 2001; Schmitt & Shackelford, 2003).
In this article, we extend this line of research by examining the
psychology of mate poaching from a cross-cultural perspective.
We explore the patterns and universals of poaching experiences
across 53 nations, representing five continents, 28 languages, and
12 islands. We identify the pancultural and region-specific traits
associated with being a mate poacher and with being a popular
target of mate poachers. We also test several evolutionary and
social-role hypotheses about the effects of sex and culture on
romantically attracting someone elses partner. We begin by re-
viewing what is known about the frequency of mate poaching.
How Often Do People Engage in Mate Poaching?
Schmitt and Buss (2001) argued that mate poaching has been a
recurrent and perhaps frequent form of romantic attraction over
human evolutionary history. Because behavior does not fossilize, it
is difficult to know with absolute certainty whether, and to what
extent, ancestral humans actually engaged in poaching. One useful
window into our evolutionary past is to look at behavioral regu-
larities among traditionalcultures that still practice foraging
(Brown, 1991; Cronk, 1999), the hunting-and-gathering lifestyle
that was prevalent for 99% of human history (Lee & Daly, 1999).
Among foraging cultures that exist today, there is some evidence
that mate poaching occurs relatively frequently. Marital infidelity
rates, for example, tend to be considerable, with at least occa-
sionalextramarital sex taking place in over 70% of traditional
cultures (Broude & Greene, 1976). Schmitt and Buss (2001) sug-
gested that many of these infidelities could be the result of stra-
tegic short-term mate poaches. Among more developed societies,
the occurrence rate of infidelitydefined as the percentage of
people who have ever been unfaithfulis also appreciable and
ranges from 20% to 75% depending on age, type of relationship,
and relationship duration (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Thomp-
son, 1983; Wiederman, 1997). Infidelity prevalence ratessuch as
the percentage of people who have been unfaithful in the past
yearmust by definition be somewhat lower than occurrence rates
but are still considerable, ranging between 10% and 25% (Blum-
stein & Schwartz, 1983; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels,
1994). Infidelity rates such as these are observed despite the fact
that extramarital sex within modern societies is usually met with
more social disapproval than it is within most foraging cultures
(Frayser, 1985; Pasternak, Ember, & Ember, 1997).
Another window into the historical occurrence and prevalence
of short-term mate poaching is to look at the reproductive conse-
quences of infidelity. Studies of cuckoldry ratesthe rates at
which men are deceived into raising offspring that are genetically
not their ownrange from 0.7% (i.e., Switzerland; see Sasse,
Mu¨ller, Chakraborty, & Ott, 1994) to around 30% (i.e., southeast
England; see Philipp, 1973), though most estimates place the value
between 10% and 15% in modern populations (see Cerda-Flores,
Barton, Marty-Gonzalez, Rivas, & Chakraborty, 1999; Macintyre
& Sooman, 1991). Cuckoldry rates are somewhat lower among the
foraging cultures that have been studied, ranging between 2% and
9% around the world (see Baker & Bellis, 1995; Neel & Weiss,
1975). Cuckoldry rates of this magnitude suggest that short-term
poaching likely pays some reproductive dividends and has done so
throughout humans foraging past. Alongside other evidence indi-
cating that short-term mating and sperm competition are integral
parts of the basic human mating system (Barash & Lipton, 2001;
Birkhead, 2000; Schmitt, Shackelford, & Buss, 2001; Shackelford
& LeBlanc, 2001; Shackelford et al., 2002; Smith, 1984), it seems
a plausible scenario that short-term mate poaching occurred with
some regularity during our ancestral past.
There is reason to suspect that long-term mate poaching also
occurred throughout human evolutionary history. Schmitt and
Buss (2001) speculated that spousal deaths caused by warfare,
birthing difficulties, and sicknesscommon occurrences in for-
aging cultureswould have produced a recurring need for people
to remarry during their adult lifetimes. Because many of the most
valuable partners already would be mated, the process of reenter-
ing the mating market for many people would have meant trying to
attract and retain someone who was already mated. The reproduc-
tive advantages to those willing and able to woo away anothers
partner in these instances may have been considerable. Moreover,
because most cultures include an equal number of men and
women, the mating system of polygyny (i.e., the predominant
system of foraging people whereby some men have more than one
wife; Foley, 1996; Frayser, 1985) would have exacerbated the
problem of finding a long-term mate for many men, forcing some
men to perhaps engage in long-term mate poaching as a necessary
sexual strategy. The human tendency toward serial monogamy
the cyclical practice of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Fisher,
1987)would have provided further reproductive opportunities to
those capable of poaching away the most valuable mates.
Although both theoretical rationale (e.g., adaptive problems of
widowhood, polygyny, and sperm competition) and indirect pieces
of evidence (e.g., infidelity, cuckoldry, and remarriage rates) sug-
gest that poaching has beenand continues to bea recurrent
form of human mating, the direct evidence of short-term and
long-term mate poaching is limited. On the basis of responses from
a small sample of American college students, Schmitt and Buss
(2001) found that most people admit to having attempted to poach
someone in the past, with men (64%) more likely than women
(49%) to report having made short-term poaching forays. Similar
poaching occurrence rates were found in an older community
sample (60% vs. 38% for men and women, respectively). Schmitt
and Buss (2001) found that over 80% of both men and women
reported that they or a past partner had received a poaching
561
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
attempt. Subjective perceptions of poaching attempts made on
oneself may be less veridical than self-reported attempts made by
oneself, but it nevertheless seems clear that most people in the
Schmitt and Buss (2001) study had experienced mate poaching in
some form.
Schmitt and Buss (2001) also reported that nearly half of
college-age men and women who had received a poaching attempt
in the past admitted that they had gone alongor succumbed to
the mate poacher. Similar levels of infidelity occurrence were
observed in the community sample. Revealing that one has been
unfaithful is, of course, a highly undesirable admission. As a
result, these are probably underestimates of the occurrence of true
poaching successes.
Perhaps most compelling, Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that
15% of people currently in romantic relationships reported that
their current relationship directly resulted from mate poaching,
either because they poached their current mate or because they
were poached into the relationship by their current mate. Because
these rates are based only on peoples current romantic partner-
ships, the actual occurrence rates of effective long-term mate
poaching may be well above 15%. Finally, around 3% of current
relationships resulted from both partners having poached each
other out of previous relationships, a comparatively infrequent
form that may be termed the copoachedrelationship. Overall,
the Schmitt and Buss (2001) study painted a portrait of human
mating replete with poaching-related experiences.
Despite the high occurrence of mate poaching in the Schmitt and
Buss (2001) study, it remains unknown whether such experiences
are limited to a set of small and peculiar American samplesthe
Schmitt and Buss (2001) samples were limited to the Midwest
region of the United Statesor whether poaching-related attrac-
tion occurs with similar regularity across different cultures. Given
the apparent frequency and functionality of mate poaching (as
evidenced in studies of human infidelity, cuckoldry, and remar-
riage), an evolutionary psychology perspective might anticipate
mate poaching to be universal across cultures. There is no reason
to expect that poaching is the primary or most common form of
mating for all people, but the potential adaptive advantages for
individuals in certain situations to engage in mate poaching may
have been large enough for mate poaching to have become a
pancultural form of romantic attraction. Moreover, if mate poach-
ing does exist across all cultures, an evolutionary perspective
would be interested in whether mate poaching constitutes a distinct
evolutionary strategy or whether mate poaching follows as a
consequence of more generalized mating adaptations.
If mate poaching is a distinct strategy, it should show evidence
of special designacross cultures (Gangestad, 2001; Gaulin,
1997; Williams, 1966). For example, if there are theoretical rea-
sons for expecting people within certain environmental situations
(e.g., an unbalanced sex ratio) to functionally benefit from mate
poaching, and people in those conditions are significantly more
likely than others to tryand to succeedat mate poaching, this
would provide partial (though not complete) evidence that mate
poaching might be a distinct mating strategy. Such evidence could
indicate that humans have psychological adaptations that take in
specific information about the environment (both the physical
environment and ones own personal characteristics) and then
adjust mate-poaching behavior in functionally specific ways. Thus,
just as possessing the personal attribute of physical attractiveness
(e.g., high levels of bodily symmetry) may lead some men to
functionally pursue a short-term mating strategy (Gangestad &
Simpson, 2000), being in a culture with an unbalanced sex ratio or
possessing particular personality traits may functionally evoke
mate-poaching behavior. We next review what is known about the
specific personal characteristics of mate poachers.
What Type of Person Engages in Mate Poaching?
Schmitt and Buss (2001) found in American samples that people
who more frequently attempt to poach anothers romantic partner
scored higher on certain personality trait scales. Using a measure
of the Big Five dimensions of personality (Goldberg, 1992) and the
Sexy Seven dimensions of sexuality (Schmitt & Buss, 2000),
Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that mate poachers described
themselves as especially disagreeable, unconscientious, unfaithful,
and erotophilic (see Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelley, 1988).
Schmitt and Buss (2001) speculated that the lack of empathy
associated with disagreeableness (Graziano & Eisenberg, 1997)
and the immorality associated with low conscientiousness (Hogan
& Ones, 1997) were key ingredients in the causal etiology of
poaching, perhaps serving as psychological releasing factorsfor
mate-poaching attempts (see also, Foster, Shrira, Campbell, &
Stone, 2002).
People who were especially successful at mate poaching in the
Schmitt and Buss (2001) study also scored high on certain
personality-trait scales. Those who reported success at poaching
described themselves as relatively open to new experiences and
reported being sexually attractive, relationally unfaithful, sexually
unrestrained (not celibate), and erotophilic. The finding that suc-
cessful mate poachers find it comfortable to talk about sex (i.e.,
high erotophilia) suggests that open conversations and curiosity
about sexual matters may be a key milieu for successful mate-
poaching endeavors.
People who frequently received mate-poaching attempts (i.e.,
those that are common targets of poaching) also possessed certain
traits. Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that frequent targets of mate
poachers described themselves as more extraverted, open to expe-
rience, attractive, unfaithful, and loving than other people did. The
combination of extraversion and openness may provide a special
opportunity to poachers, as already-mated partners who are highly
social and open to new ideas would be more likely to interact with
those who are looking to poach. The fact that attractive and loving
people were common targets of poaching was unsurprising, given
that these attributes are universally desired in potential mates
(Buss, 1989). The finding that unfaithful people are common
targets suggests that mate poachers are functionally selective in
choosing to attract those who are likely to succumb to poaching
forays.
People who have succumbed to poaching attempts (i.e., those
who have been unfaithful) described themselves as disagreeable,
unconscientious, neurotic, unfaithful, erotophilic, and unloving
(Schmitt & Buss, 2001). Similar to mate poachers, unfaithful
people display a lack of empathy and morality in their personality,
combined with high neuroticism and erotophilia. Again, the find-
ing that both successful mate poachers and those who are success-
fully poached find it comfortable to talk about sex (i.e., high
erotophilia) suggests that curiosity and openness about sexual
562 SCHMITT ET AL.
matters are potential catalysts for successful mate-poaching
endeavors.
How Important Is Culture to Mate Poaching?
The studies and findings reported thus farmate-poaching fre-
quencies, sex differences in mate poaching, and personality traits
of poachers and poaching targetswere primarily based on re-
sponses from college students in the United States. We attempted
to replicate these findings across 10 major regions of the world
using multiple college student and community samples from 53
individual nations. The 10 world regions were North America
(represented by 3 nations), South America (5 nations), Western
Europe (8 nations), Eastern Europe (11 nations), Southern Europe
(6 nations), the Middle East (3 nations), Africa (7 nations), Oce-
ania (2 nations), South/Southeast Asia (4 nations), and East Asia (4
nations). In addition to replicating the features of mate-poaching
psychology identified in previous research (Schmitt & Buss,
2001), we tested four hypotheses about patterns and universals of
mate poaching across world regions.
Hypothesis 1
Our first hypothesis was as follows: Proportionately more men
than women will attempt and succumb to short-term mate poach-
ing across all world regions; proportionately more women than
men will receive and be successful at short-term mate poaching
across all world regions. Sexual strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt,
1993) postulates that sex differences in human reproductive biol-
ogy have led to fundamental differences in mens and womens
sexual psychology (see also Symons, 1979; Trivers, 1972). In
particular, because men need not invest as much as women to
produce viable offspring (women are minimally required to invest
in gestation, placentation, and lactation), men can reap greater
reproductive benefits than women can from mating with multiple
partners. It is not the case that all men are indiscriminate maters at
all times. Men can be very discriminating when choosing a long-
term marriage partner, for example (Kenrick, Sadalla, Groth, &
Trost 1990), and many men choose long-term mating as their
primary sexual strategy (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). However,
sexual strategies theory further postulates that when men actively
seek short-term mates, they do so with less discriminating tastes
than women do and that, on average, men will spend more effort
seeking short-term mates than women will (see also Schmitt &
International Sexuality Description Project, 2003).
To understand the adaptive value of multiple mating for men,
consider that 1 man can produce as many as 100 offspring by
indiscriminately mating with 100 women in a given year, whereas
a man who is monogamous will tend to produce only 1 child
during that same time period. In contrast, whether a woman mates
indiscriminately with 100 men or more reservedly with 1 man, she
will still tend to produce only 1 child in a given year. This
profound reproductive difference in the potential benefits of pro-
miscuous or indiscriminate sex leads to the hypothesis that men,
more than women, will seek multiple mates. Short-term mate
poaching would help to achieve this fundamental adaptive goal of
mens short-term mating strategy, and so men are predicted to
attempt more short-term mate poaches than women; and when in
a relationship, men are predicted to succumb more often to short-
term mate poaches on themselves.
Sexual strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) makes it clear
that women can reap adaptive benefits from occasional short-term
mating (see also Gangestad, 2001; Greiling & Buss, 2000; Hrdy,
1981). However, womens short-term sexual strategy appears to be
focused more on selectively obtaining men of high status and
genetic quality rather than obtaining numerous partners in high
quantity (Gangestad & Thornhill, 1997; Schmitt, Shackelford,
Duntley, Tooke, & Buss, 2001; Smith, 1984). Because men will
attempt more short-term mate poaching, it is also predicted that
women will report receiving more short-term mate-poaching at-
tempts. Also, because men will succumb more to short-term
poaching, it is predicted that women will report more success in
their short-term poaching attempts.
Hypothesis 2
Our second hypothesis was as follows: World regions with more
demanding environments will have lower rates of short-term mate
poaching. According to strategic pluralism theory (Gangestad &
Simpson, 2000), humans possess a menu of alternative mating
strategies (see also, Belsky, 1999; Chisholm, 1996; Gross, 1996;
Thiessen, 1994). Which strategy is followed depends in part on
local environmental conditions. When local environments are de-
manding and the difficulties of rearing offspring are high, for
example, the adaptive need for biparental care increases. Because
both men and women are needed to raise offspring successfully in
more demanding environments, Gangestad and Simpson (2000)
argued that the importance of fidelity and heavy family investment
should correspondingly increase in such environments. In envi-
ronments where male parenting qualities are needed and valued,
women should be less likely to engage in short-term mating and
extra-pair mating. In response to this, men should devote greater
effort to parental investment(Gangestad & Simpson, 2000, p.
585). If true, this suggests that in cultures with more demanding
environments (e.g., fewer resources), rates of short-term mate
poachingan index of infidelityshould be lower. Conversely, in
cultures with abundant resources, short-term mate poaching should
be more common in both occurrence and prevalence.
Hypothesis 3
Our third hypothesis was as follows: World regions with more
men than women will have higher rates of mate poaching by men,
whereas regions with more women than men will have higher rates
of mate poaching by women. Operational sex ratio can be defined
as the relative number of men to women in the local mating pool
(Guttentag & Secord, 1983; Pedersen, 1991). In most cultures,
women tend to slightly outnumber men because of mens higher
mortality rate (Daly & Wilson, 1988). Nevertheless, significant
variation exists in sex ratios across cultures and within cultures
when viewed over historical time (Guttentag & Secord, 1983).
According to Pedersen (1991), when men tend to outnumber
women, women become a more valued resource over which men
compete with greater-than-average intensity (see also Guttentag &
Secord, 1983). When the number of women noticeably outsizes the
number of men, on the other hand, women become more compet-
itive over access to the relatively scarce presence of the male
563
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
Table 1
Sample Sizes, Sampling Type, Language of Survey, and Survey Design Across 53 Nations of the
International Sexuality Description Project
Nation and region
N
Sample type Language DesignMen Women
North America 1,470 2,553
Canada 368 662 College students English/French Mixed
Mexico 105 108 Community based Spanish Within
United States of America 997 1,783 College students English Mixed
South America 445 591
Argentina 110 136 College students Spanish Short-term
Bolivia 92 89 College students Spanish Between
Brazil 42 55 College students Portuguese Within
Chile 99 211 College students Spanish Mixed
Peru 102 100 College students Spanish Between
Western Europe 1,084 1,862
Austria 206 260 College/community German Between
Belgium (Flanders) 165 354 College students Dutch (Flemish) Within
Finland 32 89 Community based Finnish Short-term
France 58 71 College students French Within
Germany 288 491 College/community German Between
Netherlands 115 126 College students Dutch Between
Switzerland 84 126 College students German Between
United Kingdom 136 345 College/community English Mixed
Eastern Europe 1,207 1,550
Croatia 113 109 College students Croatian Between
Czech Republic 105 129 College students Czech Within
Estonia 78 107 College students Estonian Short-term
Latvia 90 103 College students Latvian Between
Lithuania 47 47 College students Lithuanian Between
Poland 302 526 College students Polish Long-term
Romania 122 126 College students Romanian Between
Serbia 100 100 College students Serbian Short-term
Slovakia 84 99 College students Slovak Within
Slovenia 67 104 College students Slovenian Between
Ukraine 100 100 College/community Ukrainian Between
Southern Europe 497 836
Cyprus 23 36 College students Greek Between
Greece 47 182 College students Greek Between
Italy 92 108 College/community Italian Between
Malta 131 190 College students English Short-term
Portugal 110 142 College students Portuguese Between
Spain 94 178 College students Spanish Between
Middle East 503 552
Israel 177 211 College students Hebrew Within
Lebanon 121 136 College students English Long-term
Turkey 205 205 College/community Turkish Mixed
Africa 684 548
Botswana 97 116 College students English Short-term
Democratic Republic of Congo 88 32 College/community French Within
Ethiopia 139 95 College/community English Short-term
Morocco 90 86 College students English Between
South Africa 81 81 College students English Within
United Republic of Tanzania 91 41 College students English Short-term
Zimbabwe 98 97 College students English Between
Oceania 315 446
Australia 199 288 College students English Mixed
New Zealand 116 158 College students English Between
South/Southeast Asia 300 359
Bangladesh 82 61 College students Bangla Within
Indonesia 52 53 College students Indonesian Within
Malaysia 47 87 College students Malay Long-term
Philippines 119 158 College students English Short-term
564 SCHMITT ET AL.
gender. Because an excess of one sex would exacerbate the prob-
lem of finding a mate, the heightened intrasexual competition
associated with imbalanced ratios may accentuate rates of mate
poaching. In regions where men outnumber women, for example,
men should report higher rates of mate-poaching attempts. In
regions where women outnumber men, in contrast, women should
report higher rates of mate-poaching attempts.
Hypothesis 4
Our fourth hypothesis was as follows: Sex differences in short-
term mate poaching should be larger in regions with traditional
sex-role ideologies and smaller in regions with liberal sex-role
ideologies (as indexed by womens political and economic equal-
ity). According to the social structural theory of Eagly and Wood
(1999), men and women do not possess adaptations that are spe-
cifically designed to cause sex differences in sexuality, including
short-term mating tendencies (see also Wood & Eagly, 2002).
Instead, Eagly and Wood (1999) assumed that humans have
evolved the tendency to have different social structures for men
and women and that any differences in the minds of men and
women arise primarily from experience and socialization(p. 414)
once in those different social roles. Thus, when men and women
differ, it is because they have received dissimilar socialization
experiencesparticularly those experiences associated with a so-
cietys bifurcated social and gender roles (Eagly, 1987; Kasser &
Sharma, 1999; Maccoby, 1998).
The degree to which men and women are forced to inhabit
dissimilar social roles, and eventually develop psychological dif-
ferences, is something that can vary across cultures (see Williams
& Best, 1990). From this social structural perspective, sex differ-
ences in short-term mate poachingif they existare likely pro-
duced by social-role differences, especially the different economic
and family tasks that men and women perform (Eagly & Wood,
1999; Wood & Eagly, 2002). This social structural perspective
generates the following hypothesis: In regions where women are
more socially restricted in terms of politics and economics, sex
differences in short-term mate poaching should be larger. Within
regions that possess more modernor progressive sex-role ide-
ologieswhere women have greater access to power and money
and are able to make their own decisionswomen are allowed to
explore a wider array of roles. Both men and women enjoy less
burdensome and gender-constraining social structures in regions
with modern sex-role ideologies (Williams & Best, 1990), and
when men and women occupy the same specific social role, sex
differences . .. tend to erode(Eagly & Wood, 1999, p. 413).
Thus, sex differences in short-term mate poaching should be
smaller, or perhaps even absent, in regions with more gender
equality.
Method
Samples
The research reported in this article is a result of the International
Sexuality Description Project (ISDP; Schmitt et al., in press), a collabora-
tive effort of over 100 social, behavioral, and biological scientists. Fifty-six
nations composed the full span of ISDP cultures. In 3 of these nations,
mate-poaching experiences were not assessed (i.e., Fiji, India, and Jordan).
The current data set included samples from 53 nations.
Collaborators were asked to administer an anonymous nine-page survey
to at least 100 men and 100 women. Some nations, such as the United
States and Canada, included many convenience samples, and so the na-
tional sample size was much larger than 200. As seen in Table 1, several
national samples failed to reach the designated sample size of 100 men and
100 women. Because of the small sample sizes for several individual
nations, and because individual nations used varying poaching assessment
formats (see below), the 53 nations were collapsed into 10 basic world
regions when conducting key statistical analyses. The 10 world regions
included North America (N1,470 men, 2,553 women), South America
(N445 men, 591 women), Western Europe (N1,084 men, 1,862
women), Eastern Europe (N1,207 men, 1,550 women), Southern Europe
(N497 men, 836 women), the Middle East (N503 men, 552 women),
Africa (N684 men, 548 women), Oceania (N315 men, 446 women),
South/Southeast Asia (N300 men, 359 women), and East Asia (N563
men, 589 women). For each world region, at least 200 participants (100
men and 100 women) were included, providing the necessary statistical
power (when setting
.90,
.05, and when looking for effects
moderate in size; Cohen, 1988) for evaluating regional variation in sex
differences. In addition, these 10 world regions have proven useful in
Table 1 (continued)
Nation and region
N
Sample type Language DesignMen Women
East Asia 563 589
Hong Kong (China) 100 101 College students English Within
Japan 156 101 College students Japanese Within
Republic of Korea 191 294 College students Korean Within
Taiwan 116 93 College students Mandarin Within
Worldwide sample 7,068 9,886 Varied 28 languages Mixed
Note. The nations of Jordan, Fiji, and India also were a part of the International Sexuality Description Project
(ISDP), but the mate-poaching measure was not administered to those samples. Most ISDP samples were
composed of college students; some included members of the community. All samples were convenience
samples. In several samples, a between-subjects design was used. Half the participants were administered the
short-term version of the mate-poaching measure; the other half were administered the long-term version
(indicated in the Design column by Between). Some samples were administered both short-term and long-term
versions of the mate-poaching measure (indicated by Within). Some samples were administered only
short-term or long-term formats. Finally, some nations contained a mix of assessment formats (indicated by
Mixed). Further details on sampling methods within each culture are available from the authors.
565
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
previous studies of romantic attachment, sexual desire, and human mating
strategies (Schmitt et al., in press; Schmitt & ISDP, 2003), and nations
within each region were, on average, more similar in mate poaching than
between nations.
Participants in most samples were recruited as volunteers, some received
course credit for participation, and others received a small monetary reward
for participation. All samples were administered an anonymous self-report
survey; most surveys were returned via sealed envelope or the usage of a
drop-box. Return rates for college student samples were relatively high
(around 95%), although this number was lower in some cultures. Return
rates for community samples were around 50%. Further details on the
sampling and assessment procedures within each of the world regions and
national samples are provided elsewhere (Schmitt et al., in press; Schmitt
& ISDP, 2003) and are available from David P. Schmitt.
Procedure
All participants were provided with a brief description of the study,
including the following written instructions.
This questionnaire is entirely voluntary. All your responses will be
kept confidential and your personal identity will remain anonymous.
No identifying information is requested on this survey, nor will any
such information be added later to this survey. If any of the questions
make you uncomfortable, feel free not to answer them. You are free
to withdraw from this study at any time for any reason. This series of
questionnaires should take about 20 minutes to complete. Thank you
for your participation.
The full instructional set provided by each collaborator varied, however,
and was adapted to fit the specific culture and type of sample. Details on
incentives and cover stories used across samples are available from David
P. Schmitt.
Measures
Translation procedures. Researchers from nations where English was
not the primary language were asked to conduct a translation/back-
translation procedure and administer the ISDP measures in their native
language. This process typically involved the primary collaborator trans-
lating the measures into the native language of the participants and then
having a second bilingual person back-translate the measures into English.
Differences between the original English and the back-translation were
discussed, and mutual agreements were made as to the most appropriate
translation. In general, this is regarded as more of an eticapproach to
cross-cultural psychology (Church, 2001). This procedure attempts to
balance the competing needs of making the translation meaningful and
naturally readable to the native participants, while preserving the integrity
of the original measure and its constructs (Brislin, 1980).
As seen in Table 1, this process resulted in the survey being translated
into 26 different languages. Samples from Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Morocco,
and the Philippines were administered the survey in English, but certain
terms and phrases were annotated to clarify what were thought to be
confusing words for the participants. The translation of the ISDP survey
into the Flemish dialect of Dutch used only a translation procedure, as this
involved minor word-variant changes from the original Dutch. Pilot studies
were conducted at several testing sites to clarify translation and compre-
hension concerns.
Demographic measure. Each sample was first presented with a demo-
graphic measure entitled Confidential Personal Information. This measure
included questions about sex (male, female), age, sexual orientation (het-
erosexual, homosexual, bisexual), current relationship status (e.g., married,
cohabiting, dating one person exclusively, not currently involved with
anyone), and socioeconomic status (lower, lower middle, middle, upper
middle, upper).
Mate-poaching inventory. All participants were presented with one of
two versions of a questionnaire entitled Anonymous Romantic Attraction
Survey or ARAS. The ARAS asked a series of questions about personal
experiences with romantic attraction and mate poaching. One version of the
ARAS asked about short-term mate attraction experiences (i.e., brief af-
fairs, one-night stands), and the other version of the ARAS asked about
long-term mating experiences (i.e., potential marital relationships). Each
rating scale on the questionnaire asked participants to describe their expe-
riences with a specific attraction behavior. For the frequency of attempting
poaching behaviors, rating scale values ranged from 1 (never)to7(al-
ways). Intermediate values were labeled rarely, seldom, sometimes, fre-
quently, and almost always. For the degree of success in mate poaching,
rating scales ranged from 1 (not at all successful)to7(very successful). An
intermediate value of 4 (moderately successful) also was provided. These
particular frequency and degree anchors tend to maximize the interval-
level quality of rating-scale data (Spector, 1992).
Seven items from the ARAS were relevant to the present study. The first
ARAS question asked about the frequency with which participants have
attempted to mate poach: Have you ever tried to attract someone who was
already in a romantic relationship with someone else for a short-term
sexual relationship with you?The second question asked, If you have
tried to attract someone who was already in a relationship for a short-term
sexual relationship with you, how successful have you been (if you have
never tried, skip this question)?The third question asked about the
participantsexperiences with others trying to take them away from past
mating partners: While you were in a romantic relationship, have others
tried to attract you as a short-term sexual partner?A fourth item asked,
While you were in a romantic relationship, if others attempted to obtain
you as a short-term sexual partner, how successful have they been (if others
have never tried, skip this question)?As noted in Table 1, some partici-
pants received versions of the ARAS in which they were asked about these
four items in the context of short-term poaching and some in the context of
long-term mate poaching; in a few samples, participants received both
short-term and long-term versions.
Finally, all participants were asked three questions about their current
relationship status: (a) Are you currently in a romantic relationship?(b)
Are you in a romantic relationship right now with a partner whom you
attracted away from someone else?and (c) Are you in a romantic
relationship right now with a partner who attracted you away from some-
one else?After all three questions, participants were asked to circle either
aYesor Nooption.
Personality traits. All samples were administered the Big Five Inven-
tory (BFI) of personality traits (Benet-Martı´nez & John, 1998). The 44-
item English BFI was constructed to allow quick and efficient assessment
of five personality dimensions—Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscien-
tiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness (Benet-Martı´nez & John, 1998).
Example items from the BFI include: “I see myself as someone who is
outgoing, sociable” (i.e., Extraversion), “I see myself as someone who is
helpful and unselfish with others” (i.e., Agreeableness), “I see myself as
someone who is a reliable worker”(i.e., Conscientiousness), “I see myself
as someone who worries a lot” (i.e., Neuroticism), and “I see myself as
someone who is curious about many different things” (i.e., Openness).
Self-report ratings for each item were made on a scale from 1 (disagree
strongly)to5(agree strongly). This self-report measure was used because
of its ease of administration and its brevity and because it has proven useful
for cross-language and cross-cultural research (Benet-Martı´nez & John,
1998).
Sexuality attributes. Most samples were administered a measure of the
“Sexy Seven” sexuality attributes (Schmitt & Buss, 2000). The Sexy Seven
Measure asks participants to rate themselves compared with others they
know (using a 9-point scale, ranging from 1 extremely inaccurate to9
extremely accurate) on a list of 67 sexually connotative adjectives. The
Sexy Seven scales that are scored from these self-ratings include Sexual
Attractiveness (including facets of beauty and seduction), Relationship
566 SCHMITT ET AL.
Exclusivity (whether one is promiscuous and adulterous), Gender Orien-
tation (masculinity and femininity), Sexual Restraint (abstinence and prud-
ishness), Erotophilic Disposition (obscenity, indecency, and lust), Emo-
tional Investment (love and romance), and Sexual Orientation
(homosexuality and heterosexuality).
Archival measures. Several archival data sets were used in this article.
Gross domestic product per capita (GDP) and the Gender Development
Index (i.e., the degree to which men and women differ in the achievement
of basic human capabilities, including health, longevity, education, and a
decent standard of living) were obtained from the United Nations Devel-
opment Programme (2001). National sex ratios and the percentage of
women in government were obtained from the United Nations Statistics
Division (2001).
Results
Frequency of Mate Poaching Across Cultures
The frequency of mate poaching was examined in multiple
ways. We examined both the occurrence (i.e., has it ever hap-
pened?) and prevalence (i.e., how often has it happened?) of
mate-poaching experiences. This included whether and to what
extent one has attempted a mate poach, whether and to what extent
one has been successful at mate poaching, whether and to what
extent one has received a mate poach, and whether and to what
extent one has succumbed to a past mate poach attempt. We
present the complete profile of mate-poaching experiences for
short-term and long-term poaching and for men and women,
separately. For comparative purposes, the results in Tables 210
follow the basic analysis strategy used by Schmitt and Buss
(2001).
Have you attempted to attract someone who was already in a
relationship? Similar to Schmitt and Buss (2001), we first ex-
amined the occurrence of mate poaching through identifying the
percentage of participants who responded above 1 (1 never,2
rarely,3seldom,4sometimes, etc.) to the ARAS item, Have
you ever tried to attract someone who was already in a romantic
relationship with someone else for a short-term sexual relationship
with you?Using this categorization strategy, Schmitt and Buss
(2001) found that approximately 60% of men and 40% of women
reported having made at least some attempt at short-term mate
poaching. As shown in Tables 2 and 3, this finding was replicated
in the North American region (62.1% for men, 39.9% for women).
The occurrence of attempting a short-term mate poach was
significantly higher for men than women across all regions, sup-
porting Hypothesis 1. Table 2 displays the magnitude of sex
differences in short-term poaching occurrence using the phi (
)
statistic. Sex differences are considered small if phi exceeds
0.10, moderate if phi exceeds 0.30, and large if phi exceeds
0.50 (Cohen, 1988). For all world regions, sex differences in
short-term mate-poaching attempts were small to moderate in
magnitude, confirming the hypothesis that men expend more mat-
ing effort on short-term mateships than women do (Buss &
Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt & ISDP, 2003).
Exceptions to the seemingly high occurrence of short-term
poaching included the finding that only 29.5% of East Asian males
had ever engaged in short-term poaching and that less than 30% of
women from the Middle East, Africa, South/Southeast Asia, and
East Asia reported having made a short-term poaching attempt.
Overall, though, more than 50% of men and 30% of women from
around the world responded above 1 on the short-term form of this
scale. From these data, we conclude that most college-age men and
around a third of college-age women across cultures have engaged
in at least some short-term mate poaching.
We examined mean levels on this ARAS scale as an index of the
prevalence of mate-poaching attempts. Using this analysis strategy
(see Table 3), the prevalence of short-term mate poaching overall
for men was 2.32 (SD 1.47), whereas the average woman rated
only 1.68 (SD 1.10). This would suggest that most men rarely
to seldomengage in short-term mate-poaching attempts, whereas
most women average below rarelyon this scale. Despite these
relatively low averages, however, the mean level of short-term
mate seeking for men was significantly higher than for women
across all world regions, again supporting Hypothesis 1. We used
the dstatistic to evaluate the magnitude of mean differences
between men and women. Differences using the dstatistic are
considered small if dexceeds 0.20, moderate if dexceeds 0.50,
and large if dexceeds 0.80 (Cohen, 1988). The largest sex
Table 2
Occurrence of Short-Term or Long-Term Mate-Poaching Attempts Across 10 World Regions
World regions
Have you ever attempted to poach
for short-term mating? Have you ever attempted to poach
for long-term mating?
Men (%) Women (%)
2
Men (%) Women (%)
2
North America 62.1 39.9 124.15*** .22 63.4 51.5 28.38*** .12
South America 70.3 38.2 58.80*** .32 65.6 50.2 13.04*** .15
Western Europe 56.7 39.2 56.39*** .17 56.2 46.0 15.39*** .10
Eastern Europe 66.6 41.9 93.23*** .25 59.9 43.3 44.12*** .17
Southern Europe 64.3 35.5 70.67*** .28 60.0 44.0 10.11*** .16
Middle East 52.0 27.1 45.31*** .26 53.5 38.9 12.24*** .15
Africa 56.7 22.9 122.73*** .37 63.4 28.7 47.84*** .34
Oceania 61.0 42.2 16.34*** .19 49.8 42.3 3.56 .08
South/Southeast Asia 51.4 26.6 33.92*** .26 38.9 17.4 22.04*** .24
East Asia 29.5 14.9 35.43*** .18 47.4 33.5 19.50*** .14
Worldwide sample 56.9 34.9 545.73*** .22 57.1 43.6 164.50*** .13
Note. Occurrence was operationally defined as scoring greater than 1 ona1(never)to7(frequently) scale. For
,.10small, .30moderate, and
.50large.
*** p.001.
567
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
differences in the prevalence of short-term poaching attempts were
found in South America (d.61) and Southern Europe (d.60),
the smallest occurred in South/Southeast Asia (d.32) and East
Asia (d.32). Most regions exhibited sex differences close to the
worldwide average (d.43). From these mean-level analyses, we
conclude that among college-age men and women, there is a
significant and moderately sized sex difference in the prevalence
of seeking already-mated partners for short-term sexual
experiences.
As noted earlier, some participants completed a long-term mat-
ing version of the ARAS. Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that
around 55% of men and women reported that they had made at
least some attempt at long-term mate poaching. As seen down the
right-hand side of Table 2, similar percentages of long-term mate
poaching were reported across every ISDP world region, although
the rates were somewhat lower in South/Southeast Asia. Across all
cultures, womens occurrence rates of long-term poaching (43.6%)
were slightly more frequent than short-term poaching (34.9%),
2
(1, N9,883) 160.04, p.001,
.13. This was not true
for men. It is interesting to note that, although East Asian women
were conspicuously low on short-term poaching (14.9%), they
were close to the overall average on long-term mate poaching
(33.5%).
As with the prevalence of short-term poaching attempts, the
mean levels of long-term poaching were less than substantial. The
average man rated 2.42 (SD 1.42) on the 17 frequency scale,
and the average woman rated only 1.94 (SD 1.21). This would
suggest that most men rarely to seldomengage in long-term
mate-poaching attempts, whereas women average just below
rarelyon this scale. It is interesting to note that the difference
between the prevalence of womens short-term and long-term
poaching attempts was significant, t(9881) 10.87, p.001, d
.22. The difference between mens short-term and long-term
poaching attempts was one third the size, t(7063) 2.77, p.01,
d.07. Most regions exhibited sex differences in long-term
mate-poaching attempts close to the worldwide average (d.33),
although in Oceania the difference was negligible (d.02) and in
Africa the sex difference was large (d.75). From these mean-
level analyses, we conclude that among college-age men and
women, there is a significant and small to moderately sized sex
difference in the prevalence of seeking already-mated partners for
long-term mating experiences.
Have you successfully attracted someone who was already in a
relationship? A second point of interest was whether participants
from each region had successfully attracted someone who was
already in a relationship. We examined the occurrence of whether
our participants had ever successfully mate poached by asking, If
you have tried to attract someone who was already in a relationship
for a short-term sexual relationship with you, how successful have
you been (if you have never tried, skip this question)?Responses
greater than 1 (1 not at all successful) were interpreted as
indicating the participant had been at least somewhat successful at
poaching away a past partner (again, some participants received
the long-term version of this question).
The percentages in Table 4 are based only on the responses of
people who have attempted a mate poach in the past. These data do
not represent base-rates of infidelity or serial monogamy, per se.
Rather, they represent the relative mate-poaching efficacy of those
subgroups of men and women that have targeted mates for poach-
ing in the past. Among North American men, for example, 62.1%
had attempted a short-term mate poach (see Table 2). According to
Table 4, 84.1% of those men who had attempted short-term poach-
ing achieved some level of success. Thus, 52.2% of men in the
ISDP North American sample (i.e., 84.1% of 62.1%) had success-
fully engaged in short-term mate poaching. For women, about
33.7% admitted to having ever successfully engaged in a short-
term mate poach. Overall, there were few sex differences in the
occurrence of successful short-term mate poaching.
We examined the mean levels on this ARAS scale as an index
of the prevalence of short-term mate-poaching success. The aver-
age man rated 3.86 (SD 1.94) on the 17 frequency scale, and
the average woman rated 4.38 (SD 2.13) (see Table 5). This
Table 3
Prevalence of Short-Term or Long-Term Mate-Poaching Attempts Across 10 World Regions
World region
How frequently do you attempt to poach
for short-term mating? How frequently do you attempt to poach
for long-term mating?
Men Women
td
Men Women
tdMSDMSD MSDMSD
North America 2.47 1.51 1.76 1.12 13.98*** .47 2.63 1.44 2.08 1.24 7.26*** .38
South America 2.66 1.47 1.77 1.17 8.15*** .61 2.48 1.28 1.92 1.13 4.92*** .44
Western Europe 2.20 1.34 1.73 1.10 8.34*** .35 2.21 1.30 1.93 1.17 3.44*** .21
Eastern Europe 2.52 1.41 1.86 1.22 9.92*** .47 2.40 1.44 1.90 1.20 6.64*** .35
Southern Europe 2.65 1.66 1.67 1.09 10.82*** .60 2.35 1.40 1.86 1.20 3.79*** .35
Middle East 2.03 1.25 1.44 0.86 7.29*** .47 2.47 1.53 1.87 1.25 4.01*** .39
Africa 2.38 1.61 1.54 1.16 9.59*** .53 2.69 1.57 1.51 1.09 5.42*** .75
Oceania 2.25 1.23 1.85 1.18 3.54*** .32 2.14 1.33 2.11 1.31 0.20 .02
South/Southeast Asia 2.36 1.64 1.55 1.07 6.80*** .50 2.04 1.57 1.48 1.03 2.53** .36
East Asia 1.68 1.27 1.26 0.74 6.73*** .32 2.03 1.38 1.61 1.03 5.40*** .30
Worldwide sample 2.32 1.47 1.68 1.10 26.67*** .43 2.42 1.42 1.94 1.21 13.19*** .33
Note. Prevalence was operationally defined as the mean on a scale ranging from 1 (never)to7(frequently). For d,.20small, .50moderate, and
.80large.
** p.01. *** p.001.
568 SCHMITT ET AL.
would suggest that most men and women who have attempted a
short-term mate poach have been moderatelysuccessful at it. It
is interesting to note that, in most cases, women were more
successful than men at short-term mate poaching, although this
difference was significant only in North America, Western Europe,
Eastern Europe, and Oceania. An exception to this trend was found
in Africa, where men reported higher success rates. Still, from
these mean-level analyses, we conclude that there is a trend for the
prevalence of successful short-term mate poaching to be higher in
women than men. This trend may be seen as supporting Hypoth-
esis 1, in that womens greater effectiveness in short-term poach-
ing may come as a result of mens greater interest in short-term
mateships (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt & ISDP, 2003).
The occurrence and prevalence of successful long-term mate
poaching was similar to that of short-term poaching. However, in
most cases, there were no sex differences in reports of long-term
mate-poaching success. An exception to this trend was found in
South America, where men reported a higher occurrence (
.18)
and prevalence (d.24) of successful long-term mate poaching
than women did. It is interesting to note that the difference be-
tween the prevalence of womens short-term and long-term poach-
ing success was significant, t(3602) 5.74, p.001, d.20. The
difference between mens short-term and long-term poaching suc-
cess was insignificant and was one fourth the magnitude of the
difference for women, t(3838) 1.03, ns, d .05. From these
mean-level analyses, we conclude that there is a trend for the
occurrence and prevalence of successful long-term mate poaching
to be similar in men and women, but for women success at
short-term mate poaching is noticeably greater than success at
long-term mate poaching.
Table 4
Occurrence of Successful Short-Term or Long-Term Mate Poaching (Among Those Who Have Tried) Across 10 World Regions
World region
Have you ever successfully attempted to poach
for short-term mating? Have you ever successfully attempted to poach
for long-term mating?
Men (%) Women (%)
2
Men (%) Women (%)
2
North America 84.1 84.5 0.03 .01 76.6 80.0 1.69 .04
South America 85.8 79.4 2.26 .08 86.5 72.3 9.32** .18
Western Europe 83.9 90.1 7.29** .09 81.1 82.4 0.17 .02
Eastern Europe 87.1 83.1 2.45 .06 87.3 85.0 0.72 .03
Southern Europe 84.6 85.6 0.08 .01 88.2 84.8 0.45 .05
Middle East 88.2 86.5 0.16 .03 85.6 87.8 0.20 .03
Africa 78.6 65.9 7.50** .14 78.4 65.4 3.46 .13
Oceania 82.2 89.0 1.90 .10 73.1 83.5 3.42 .13
South/Southeast Asia 76.7 67.6 2.03 .10 67.7 67.9 0.00 .00
East Asia 70.5 72.2 0.08 .02 77.9 75.6 0.10 .03
Worldwide sample 83.2 83.3 0.01 .00 80.9 80.8 0.01 .00
Note. The occurrence of poaching success was operationally defined as scoring greater than 1 ona1(not at all successful)to7(very successful) scale,
only among those participants who reported having attempted a mate poach. For
,.10small, .30moderate, and .50large.
** p.01.
Table 5
Prevalence of Successful Short-Term or Long-Term Mate Poaching (Among Those Who Have Tried) Across 10 World Regions
World region
How frequently have you successfully attempted to poach
for short-term mating? How frequently have you successfully attempted to
poach for long-term mating?
Men Women
td
Men Women
tdMSDMSD MSDMSD
North America 4.02 1.95 4.64 2.16 5.30*** .29 4.05 2.08 4.03 2.05 0.08 .04
South America 3.75 1.72 3.95 2.15 0.90 .09 3.79 1.71 3.32 1.96 2.10* .24
Western Europe 3.91 1.96 4.80 1.93 6.55*** .45 3.98 2.11 4.08 2.15 0.51 .05
Eastern Europe 3.78 1.82 4.17 2.09 2.73** .19 3.94 1.96 3.92 2.06 0.10 .01
Southern Europe 4.15 1.98 4.46 2.12 1.49 .15 3.80 1.75 4.10 2.14 1.03 .14
Middle East 4.26 1.97 4.71 2.16 1.65 .21 4.04 1.78 3.96 1.88 0.30 .05
Africa 3.90 2.05 3.31 2.14 2.68** .28 4.00 1.89 4.42 2.43 0.80 .17
Oceania 3.89 2.09 4.80 1.94 3.25*** .44 3.64 2.16 4.35 2.09 1.87 .33
South/Southeast Asia 3.33 1.87 3.43 2.23 0.37 .05 2.95 1.86 2.84 1.80 0.20 .06
East Asia 2.97 1.77 3.16 1.76 0.80 .11 2.94 1.77 2.87 1.64 0.37 .04
Worldwide sample 3.86 1.94 4.38 2.13 8.85*** .24 3.92 1.97 3.96 2.08 0.39 .01
Note. Prevalence was operationally defined as the mean on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all successful)to7(very successful), only among those
participants who reported having attempted a mate poach. For d, .20small, .50moderate, and .80large.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
569
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
Has anyone tried to attract you while you were already in a
relationship? A third point of interest was whether participants
from each region had experienced someone trying to poach them
while they were in a past relationship. Responses greater than one
(1 never) to the question, While you were in a romantic
relationship, have others ever attempted to obtain you away from
your partner for a short-term sexual relationship?indicated that
the participant had at some point received a short-term mate-
poaching attempt. Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that nearly 80%
of men and women had received a mate-poaching attempt. As seen
in Table 6, the worldwide occurrence of receiving a mate-poaching
attempt was about 70% for men and women from most world
regions. These short-term poaching percentages appeared some-
what higher in Western cultures (e.g., the Americas and all of
Europe) compared with African and Asian cultures.
Few sex differences were observed in the occurrence of receiv-
ing either short-term or long-term mate-poaching attempts. In
Oceania, women were more likely than men to report receiving
long-term poaching attempts, whereas in South/Southeast Asia
men were more likely than women to report receiving long-term
poaching attempts. Sex differences in receiving short-term mate-
poaching attempts were nonsignificant within regions, although
the worldwide occurrence of receiving short-term poaching at-
tempts was higher for women than for men. The failure to find sex
differences in the reception of short-term poaching attempts within
regions would seem to conflict with mens self-reported tendency
to make more short-term poaching attempts. However, men are
more likely, in general, to perceive sexual interest from the oppo-
site sex (Abbey, 1982). This may be an adaptive vigilance that
leads men to be hypersensitive to short-term mating possibilities
(Haselton & Buss, 2000). Consequently, men in this study may
have subjectively overestimated the short-term poaching attempts
made by women. At the same time, this particular perceptual bias
would not necessarily lead men to overestimate the relatively
objective rates at which they made short-term poaching forays.
Thus, it is possible for men to accurately report higher rates than
women do in making short-term poaching attempts, while men
overestimate the short-term interest of women and report similar
perceptions of receiving short-term poaching attempts.
We examined the mean levels on this ARAS scale as an index
of the prevalence of receiving mate-poaching attempts. The aver-
age man rated 2.78 (SD 1.55) and the average woman rated 2.98
(SD 1.64), t(11181) ⫽⫺6.39, p.001, d⫽⫺.12 (see Table
7). This would suggest that most men and women rarely to
seldomreceive short-term mate-poaching attempts. In contrast to
occurrence rates, the prevalence of receiving short-term mate-
poaching attempts did display some sexual differentiation across
regions. In most regions, women reported significantly higher
prevalence rates of receiving short-term poaching attempts, sup-
porting Hypothesis 1. Only in East Asia were men significantly
more likely to report receiving short-term poaching attempts. As
noted above, it was possible that women would not report receiv-
ing more short-term attempts, due in part to mens potential
hypersensitivity to sexual interest by women (Haselton & Buss,
2000). In addition, women from four world regions (North Amer-
ica, Western Europe, Middle East, and Oceania) reported higher
prevalence rates of receiving long-term poaching attempts. From
these mean-level analyses, we conclude that among college-age
men and women, there is some evidence that women report re-
ceiving more attempts at mate poachingparticularly in the con-
text of short-term poachingthan men do.
Have you succumbed to a mate-poaching attempt when someone
tried to attract you away from a previous partner? We examined
the occurrence of whether participants had ever been successfully
poached from a past relationship by asking, If others have at-
tempted to obtain you as a short-term sexual partner, how success-
ful have they been (if others have never tried, skip this question)?
Responses greater than 1 (1 not at all successful) were inter-
preted as indicating the participant had been at least somewhat
successfully poached away from a past partner (again, some par-
ticipants received the long-term version of this question). We
chose this analysis strategy because it was used in a previous study
in which 50% of men and 35% of women had succumbed to a
short-term poaching attempt (Schmitt & Buss, 2001). As seen in
Table 6
Occurrence of Receiving Short-Term or Long-Term Mate-Poaching Attempts Across 10 World Regions
World region
Has anyone ever tried to poach you away
for short-term mating? Has anyone ever tried to poach you away
for long-term mating?
Men (%) Women (%)
2
Men (%) Women (%)
2
North America 74.5 76.2 0.97 .02 71.9 75.4 3.12 .04
South America 77.7 71.0 2.46 .08 68.4 77.3 1.80 .10
Western Europe 75.5 77.9 1.39 .03 67.4 70.6 1.76 .03
Eastern Europe 75.3 77.1 0.64 .02 65.9 72.2 3.63 .07
Southern Europe 77.0 76.4 0.05 .01 72.6 72.2 0.01 .01
Middle East 72.3 73.5 0.14 .01 66.5 73.1 2.77 .07
Africa 66.1 64.1 0.30 .02 76.7 78.4 0.08 .02
Oceania 77.2 76.6 0.03 .01 61.4 74.2 11.48*** .14
South/Southeast Asia 55.7 54.4 0.08 .01 52.4 34.6 5.70* .18
East Asia 39.9 37.0 1.01 .03 44.9 47.7 0.76 .03
Worldwide sample 69.1 71.3 5.91* .02 64.6 69.7 20.94*** .05
Note. Occurrence was operationally defined as scoring greater than 1 ona1(never)to7(frequently) scale. For
,.10small, .30moderate, and
.50large.
*p.05. *** p.001.
570 SCHMITT ET AL.
Table 8, around 60% of men and 45% of women worldwide
reported that they had succumbed to a short-term mate poach at
some point in their past. For long-term poaching, over 60% of men
and 50% of women reported that they had succumbed to a poach-
ing attempt at some point in their lives.
These percentages are based only on the responses of people
who have received a mate-poaching attempt. These data do not
represent base rates of infidelity or serial monogamy. Rather, they
may represent the relative susceptibility of those subgroups of men
and women that have been targeted by mate poachers. Among
North American men, for example, 74.5% had received a short-
term mate-poaching attempt (see Table 6). According to Table 8,
63.3% of those men who have received an attempted short-term
poach went along with it. Thus, 47.2% of men in the ISDP North
American sample (i.e., 63.3% of 74.5%) had ever engaged in a
short-term affair as a result of poaching. For women, about 32%
admitted to having gone along with a short-term mate poach.
These percentages are in line with other studies of infidelity among
college-age individuals and dating couples from North America
(see Wiederman, 1997; Wiederman & Hurd, 1999).
The occurrence rates of going along with a short-term mate
poach were significantly higher for men than women across all
cultures, supporting Hypothesis 1 (see Table 8). For long-term
poaching, men reported significantly more success in South Amer-
ica, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, Oceania, and South/
Southeast Asia. The primary difference between the occurrence of
succumbing to short-term and long-term poaching was between
women, with more women succumbing to long-term poaching
Table 7
Prevalence of Receiving Short-Term or Long-Term Mate-Poaching Attempts Across 10 World Regions
World region
How frequently do people attempt to poach you away
for short-term mating? How frequently do people attempt to poach you away
for long-term mating?
Men Women
td
Men Women
tdMSDMSD MSDMSD
North America 3.05 1.61 3.19 1.66 2.19* .09 3.10 1.57 3.34 1.58 2.56** .15
South America 3.04 1.49 2.84 1.60 1.47 .12 2.83 1.57 2.68 1.39 1.06 .09
Western Europe 2.82 1.40 3.13 1.49 4.46*** .20 2.72 1.38 3.08 1.44 3.82*** .25
Eastern Europe 2.80 1.41 3.07 1.52 3.52*** .18 2.69 1.47 2.58 1.48 1.33 .08
Southern Europe 3.16 1.57 3.11 1.58 0.41 .03 2.92 1.54 2.78 1.51 0.92 .09
Middle East 2.74 1.44 2.97 1.61 1.93* .14 2.80 1.56 3.19 1.66 2.23* .23
Africa 2.87 1.72 3.15 1.98 2.35* .14 3.55 1.83 3.57 1.62 0.07 .01
Oceania 2.84 1.45 3.20 1.59 2.48** .22 2.93 1.50 3.35 1.37 2.43* .28
South/Southeast Asia 2.54 1.65 2.50 1.69 0.28 .03 3.55 1.75 3.85 1.66 0.93 .17
East Asia 1.92 1.35 1.77 1.20 2.05* .12 1.96 1.33 2.00 1.27 0.44 .03
Worldwide sample 2.78 1.55 2.98 1.64 6.39*** .12 2.90 1.54 3.03 1.54 3.03** .08
Note. Prevalence was operationally defined as the mean on a scale ranging from 1 (never)to7(frequently). For d, .20small, .50moderate, and
.80large.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
Table 8
Occurrence of Having Been Successfully Poached as a Short-Term or Long-Term Mate (Among Those Who Have Received Attempts)
Across 10 World Regions
World region
Has anyone ever successfully poached you away
for short-term mating? Has anyone ever successfully poached you away
for long-term mating?
Men (%) Women (%)
2
Men (%) Women (%)
2
North America 63.3 42.1 78.94*** .20 52.0 47.9 2.47 .04
South America 59.9 40.4 16.52*** .19 64.9 55.7 3.76* .09
Western Europe 66.1 56.2 13.45*** .10 68.5 58.5 10.97*** .10
Eastern Europe 62.8 48.5 22.57*** .14 72.6 63.6 9.91** .10
Southern Europe 72.5 41.7 58.93*** .30 67.7 61.8 1.17 .06
Middle East 66.8 44.1 24.53*** .23 64.2 54.5 3.55 .10
Africa 55.1 26.9 50.11*** .29 62.4 42.0 11.90*** .20
Oceania 58.5 44.9 6.20** .13 57.2 44.7 6.17** .12
South/Southeast Asia 60.0 28.0 34.20*** .32 59.8 46.8 4.46* .13
East Asia 64.5 51.7 6.37** .13 64.4 57.2 1.93 .07
Worldwide sample 63.2 45.0 248.82*** .18 63.2 54.4 48.27*** .09
Note. The occurrence of poaching success was operationally defined as scoring greater than 1 ona1(not at all successful)to7(very successful) scale,
only among those participants who reported having received a mate-poaching attempt. For
,.10small, .30moderate, and .50large.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
571
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
(54.4%) than short-term poaching (45.0%),
2
(1, N6,925)
101.03, p.001,
.12.
We examined the mean levels on this ARAS scale as an index
of the prevalence of succumbing to mate-poaching attempts. The
average man rated 2.86 (SD 1.91) and the average woman rated
2.10 (SD 1.58), t(7867) 19.09, p.001, d.40 (see Table
9). This suggests that most men who receive short-term poaching
attempts seldomsuccumb to the poachers, whereas women
rarelysuccumb when they receive short-term mate-poaching
attempts. Within each of the 10 ISDP world regions, men reported
significantly higher prevalence rates of succumbing to short-term
mate-poaching attempts, again supporting Hypothesis 1. In long-
term mate poaching, men were more likely to succumb only in
Western Europe and Eastern Europe. From these mean-level anal-
yses, we conclude that, among college-age men and women, there
is evidence that men succumb to short-term poaching attempts
more frequently than women do.
Is your current romantic relationship the result of mate poach-
ing? When participants were asked about their current relation-
ship status, over half of the men and women reported being in a
romantic relationship. This is typical of college-student samples
(e.g., Buss, Larsen, Westen, & Semmelroth, 1992). Of those par-
ticipants who reported that they were currently in a romantic
relationship, around 12% of men and 8% of women reported that
their current relationship resulted from their having attracted their
current partner away from someone else (see Table 10). These data
provide a relatively clear and direct estimate of recent long-term
mate-poaching success, suggesting that around 10% of current
relationships result from mate poaching.
We also asked whether participants had been lured away from a
past partner into their current relationship. About 14% of women
and 10% of men reported that they had been poached into their
current romantic relationship. Finally, the percentage of relation-
ships that resulted from both partners poaching each other into the
relationship (i.e., a copoach) varied from a low of 1.7% in South
America to a high of 7.7% in South/Southeast Asia.
On the basis of the current ISDP findings, we conclude that the
occurrence of mate poaching is a cultural universal. Although the
overall prevalence of mate poaching ranged from only rarelyto
seldom,in every region of the world sampled by the ISDP, at
least one-fifth of the sample had engaged in mate-poaching be-
havior, and most of those who attempted mate poaching had
achieved at least some level of success. In addition, men univer-
sally reported succumbing to short-term mate poaches more than
women did. Perhaps the most compelling testament to poaching
frequency, however, was the finding that around 15% of people
currently in a romantic relationship admitted that the relationship
directly resulted from mate poachingsuccessful poaching either
by oneself or on oneself. We turn next to the personal character-
istics of mate poachers and their targets.
Personal Characteristics and Mate-Poaching Experiences
Across Cultures
We related participantsrecollections of poaching-attraction ex-
periences to self-reported personal characteristics. Few differences
emerged between short-term and long-term poaching correlations.
In general, the relationships between personality and mate poach-
ing were stronger in short-term poaching, but across both forms of
poaching, the same set of personality and sexuality variables were
involved. As a result, we focus on the relationship between per-
sonal characteristics and mate poaching after collapsing across
temporal context. The results in Tables 1115 represent partial
correlations between mate poaching and personal characteristics,
after controlling for the effects of nation within each world region.
Nation was statistically controlled for in order to rule out any
confounding influences within each region. If one nation had
particularly high levels of both extraversion and mate poaching,
for example, failing to control for nation would artificially produce
a positive correlation between extraversion and mate poaching
within the general world region.
Table 9
Prevalence of Having Been Successfully Poached as a Short-Term or Long-Term Mate (Among Those Who Have Received Attempts)
Across 10 World Regions
World region
How frequently have you been successfully poached
away for short-term mating? How frequently have you been successfully poached away
for long-term mating?
Men Women
td
Men Women
tdMSDMSD MSDMSD
North America 2.82 1.89 2.03 1.56 9.85*** .42 2.54 1.70 2.39 1.71 1.26 .08
South America 2.82 1.96 1.89 1.45 5.68*** .48 2.64 1.70 2.38 1.63 1.47 .15
Western Europe 2.91 1.89 2.43 1.69 4.95*** .26 3.23 1.74 2.64 1.82 4.17*** .30
Eastern Europe 2.90 1.93 2.18 1.62 6.71*** .37 3.26 1.94 2.95 2.02 2.19* .15
Southern Europe 3.34 2.00 1.98 1.48 10.00*** .68 2.80 1.70 3.02 2.09 0.96 .10
Middle East 3.07 2.01 2.04 1.57 6.22*** .52 2.76 1.69 2.62 1.85 0.64 .08
Africa 2.57 1.83 1.74 1.44 6.53*** .45 2.75 1.78 2.24 1.70 1.61 .29
Oceania 2.65 1.81 2.25 1.75 2.07* .22 2.65 1.61 2.48 3.28 0.44 .05
South/Southeast Asia 2.86 1.96 1.65 1.23 6.65*** .62 2.53 1.38 2.64 1.45 0.37 .07
East Asia 2.74 1.77 2.11 1.45 3.75*** .36 2.66 1.70 2.36 1.56 1.77 .18
Worldwide sample 2.86 1.91 2.10 1.58 19.09*** .40 2.88 1.81 2.62 1.95 4.18*** .13
Note. Prevalence was operationally defined as the mean on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all successful)to7(very successful), only among those
participants who reported having received a mate-poaching attempt. For d, .20small, .50moderate, and .80large.
*p.05. ***p.001.
572 SCHMITT ET AL.
What type of person tries to poach another’s partner? We
compared responses to the ARAS item, Have you ever tried to
attract someone who was already in a romantic relationship with
someone else for a short-term sexual relationship with you?with
measures of personality traits and sexuality attributes that were
deemed relevant to mate poaching in previous studies (Schmitt &
Buss, 2001; Schmitt & Shackelford, 2003). All comparisons were
between raw scores on continuous scales, and some participants
received the long-term version of this scale. As displayed in Table
11, people who more often attempt mate poaching possess similar
personality traits across regions. From a measure of the Big Five
personality traits (Benet-Martı´nez & John, 1998), mate poachers
tended to describe themselves as extraverted and disagreeable.
Extraversion, sometimes called surgency, is the degree to which
one is active, assertive, and talkative (Ashton, Lee, & Paunonen,
2002; Watson & Clark, 1997). Agreeableness refers to whether
one is generous, gentle, and empathetic (Graziano & Eisenberg,
1997). Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that mate poachers also
were low on conscientiousnessa trait linked to low morality and
lack of will. This association was apparent, though somewhat less
consistent, across the world regions of the ISDP.
From a measure of the Sexy Seven sexual dimensions (Schmitt
& Buss, 2000), Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that mate poachers
described themselves as unfaithful and erotophilic. In the present
ISDP study, mate poachers displayed these same sexual attributes.
Indeed, these associations were strong and significant for both men
and women across all world regions. Mate poachers were sexually
unfaithfulapparently, they do not ask others to do what they
would not do themselves. Mate poachers also were erotophilic,
scoring high in lust, perversion, and indecency (Fisher et al., 1988;
Schmitt & Buss, 2000).
What type of person successfully poaches another person’s
partner? As displayed in Table 12, the psychological traits of
people who reported that they have successfully poached away
Table 10
Percentage of Those Currently in Relationships Who Report That They Poached Their Current Partner, That They Were Poached by
Their Current Partner, or That Both Occurred Simultaneously (a “Copoach”) Across 10 World Regions
World region
Did you poach your current partner
into your relationship? Did your current partner poach you
into your relationship?
Copoach? (%)Men (%) Women (%)
2
Men (%) Women (%)
2
North America 10.4 7.7 8.45** .05 10.8 13.6 6.59** .05 3.2
South America 8.2 6.8 0.71 .03 7.9 9.9 1.20 .04 1.7
Western Europe 9.4 7.9 2.16 .03 5.9 10.7 18.61*** .08 2.5
Eastern Europe 17.8 11.7 18.66*** .09 11.2 20.0 35.30*** .12 4.3
Southern Europe 10.3 7.6 2.79 .05 11.0 12.6 0.74 .02 2.8
Middle East 8.6 6.0 2.56 .05 6.8 10.0 3.44 .06 2.9
Africa 17.3 10.7 10.52*** .09 17.7 18.0 0.01 .00 5.8
Oceania 3.4 6.6 2.09 .07 4.0 9.9 5.22* .11 1.9
South/Southeast Asia 17.3 11.1 5.14* .09 12.1 15.9 1.90 .06 7.7
East Asia 7.6 5.8 1.20 .04 7.2 12.4 7.31** .09 3.3
Worldwide sample 11.8 8.4 51.30*** .06 9.9 13.6 50.72*** .06 3.4
Note. Numbers reflect the percentage of people reporting yesto various questions. For
,.10small, .30moderate, and .50large.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
Table 11
Are Men and Women Who More Frequently Attempt Mate Poaching More Extraverted, Disagreeable, Unconscientious, Unfaithful,
and Erotophilic Than Others?
World region
Extraversion Agreeableness Conscientiousness Relationship
exclusivity Erotophilic
disposition
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
North America .16*** .07*** .14*** .16*** .05* .10*** .44*** .31*** .31*** .27***
South America .16** .05 .12* .12* .01 .04 .42*** .23*** .23*** .21***
Western Europe .17*** .11*** .11*** .12*** .09** .05* .39*** .36*** .30*** .26***
Eastern Europe .14*** .11*** .13*** .14*** .01 .05* .38*** .27*** .29*** .25***
Southern Europe .15** .09* .22*** .14*** .13** .15*** .47*** .30*** .28*** .19***
Middle East .13** .02 .19*** .13** .12** .12** .37*** .26*** .27*** .21***
Africa .11* .08 .27*** .17** .23*** .18** .22*** .18** .15** .25***
Oceania .09 .15** .10 .15*** .08 .03 .50*** .34*** .27*** .30***
South/Southeast Asia .06 .11 .08 .12* .09 .14** .35*** .20*** .26*** .30***
East Asia .22*** .09* .05 .13** .00 .05 .30*** .38*** .25*** .25***
Worldwide sample .16*** .10*** .12*** .13*** .05*** .08*** .38*** .29*** .26*** .25***
Note. Correlations represent partial correlations controlling for individual nation within region.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
573
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
anothers partner are somewhat consistent across cultures. People
who reported having poaching success score higher on openness to
experience and sexual attractiveness, and they score lower on
relationship exclusivity. There was also a tendency for successful
mate poachers to describe themselves as sexually unrestrained.
Among women, but not men, it was common across regions for
successful mate poachers to be erotophilic in disposition. The
finding that people who are unfaithful and erotophilic tend not
only to practice mate poaching but also to be successful at it when
attempted, suggests that these two traits are integral to the psy-
chology of mate poaching. The finding that attractive individuals
tend to be more successful at mate poaching demonstrates that
some of the same processes of general romantic attraction may be
operating in the context of mate poaching. For women seeking
short-term mates, and for men seeking long-term or short-term
mates, physical attractiveness is highly desired (Buss & Schmitt,
1993; Schmitt & Buss, 1996). Thus, the psychological adaptations
of women and men that influence general mate selection appear to
be relevant to mate poaching as well.
In sum, the psychological traits of successful mate poachers
were both universal and, in some ways, region-specific. Successful
mate poachers tended to be open and sexually attractive, as well as
unfaithful to their own relationship partners. Those who were
successful in poaching also tended to be sexually unrestrained, and
erotophilia was pronounced among women. Several of these cross-
culturally pervasive linkages of personality, sexuality, and mate
poaching fell short of statistical significance, but the gross pattern
of correlations was similar across all 10 world regions.
What type of person is a common target of mate poachers?
Schmitt and Buss (2001) found that people who receive mate-
poaching attempts (i.e., those who are common targets of mate
poachers) described themselves as especially extraverted and open
to experience. As displayed in Table 13, we confirmed across
world regions that people who receive more poaching attempts
Table 12
Are Men and Women Who More Successfully Attempt Mate Poaching More Open, Sexy, Unfaithful, Unrestrained, and Erotophilic
Than Those Who Attempt but Fail?
World region
Openness Sexual
attractiveness Relationship
exclusivity Sexual restraint Erotophilic
disposition
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
North America .09** .05 .35*** .23*** .15*** .16*** .23*** .27*** .12*** .14***
South America .09 .02 .23*** .05 .04 .04 .14* .30*** .00 .04
Western Europe .02 .05 .25*** .30*** .14*** .16*** .22*** .22*** .16*** .15***
Eastern Europe .20*** .19*** .28*** .26*** .13*** .14*** .13*** .20*** .14*** .12**
Southern Europe .22*** .27*** .44*** .34*** .18** .08 .15* .30*** .10 .18**
Middle East .22*** .15 .23*** .20* .13* .15 .23*** .37*** .16* .26**
Africa .19* .05 .31*** .27* .01 .22* .07 .03 .05 .32**
Oceania .19* .10* .20** .25*** .17* .19* .01 .20** .03 .30***
South/Southeast Asia .19* .29** .31*** .38*** .17* .20 .10 .29** .11 .32**
East Asia .27*** .32** .20* .43*** .28*** .23* .25** .21* .23** .31**
Worldwide sample .17*** .12*** .30*** .27*** .14*** .15*** .17*** .26*** .13*** .17***
Note. Correlations represent partial correlations controlling for individual nation within region.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
Table 13
Are Men and Women Who More Often Receive Mate-Poaching Attempts More Extraverted, Open to Experience, Sexually Attractive,
Unfaithful, and Erotophilic Than Others?
World region
Extraversion Openness Sexual
attractiveness Relationship
exclusivity Erotophilic
disposition
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
North America .22*** .18*** .06* .07*** .40*** .33*** .31*** .19*** .20*** .19***
South America .15** .13* .18** .15** .21*** .15** .18*** .19*** .11* .10
Western Europe .25*** .21*** .09** .17*** .33*** .37*** .29*** .25*** .21*** .26***
Eastern Europe .19*** .17*** .12*** .16*** .29*** .29*** .28*** .19*** .20*** .21***
Southern Europe .24*** .25*** .16** .17*** .24*** .34*** .25*** .22*** .23*** .20***
Middle East .22*** .12** .05 .23*** .31*** .34*** .22*** .29*** .22*** .22***
Africa .19*** .16** .17*** .06 .24*** .29*** .10* .05 .14** .14*
Oceania .19*** .25*** .21*** .07 .49*** .42*** .31*** .25*** .23*** .32***
South/Southeast Asia .03 .14* .01 .11 .20*** .22*** .14* .02 .11 .14*
East Asia .17*** .13** .08 .17*** .19*** .26*** .24*** .21*** .17*** .17***
Worldwide sample .21*** .20*** .11*** .14*** .32*** .32*** .24*** .17*** .19*** .21***
Note. Correlations represent partial correlations controlling for individual nation within region.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
574 SCHMITT ET AL.
tend to have an extraverted personality. Only men from South/
Southeast Asia failed to display this linkage. The relationship
between receiving mate-poaching attempts and openness to expe-
rience was less consistent across regions, however. Mate-poaching
targets were higher on openness in several Westerncultures,
corroborating the finding that those high in sensation-seeking, a
trait corresponding to high levels of extraversion and openness to
experience, are more susceptible to risky sexual behavior involv-
ing multiple sexual partnerships (Zuckerman, 1994). Male poach-
ers in the Middle East, South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia, and
female poachers in Africa, Oceania, and South/Southeast Asia,
however, did not score significantly higher in openness.
Similar to the findings of Schmitt and Buss (2001), across all
world regions, people who received frequent mate-poaching at-
tempts described themselves as sexually attractive. This makes
sense in that men and women often seek physical attractiveness in
potential romantic partners (Buss, 1989; Schmitt & Buss, 1996).
Frequent targets of mate poachers also described themselves as
sexually unfaithful. Apparently, mate poachers around the world
are attuned to the probability of success when they choose poach-
ing targets. Finally, targets of mate poaching described themselves
as having an erotophilic disposition. Being willing to talk openly
about sex and sexual deviance appear to be universal attractants to
would-be mate poachers.
What type of person is successfully poached away? As dis-
played in Table 14, the psychological traits of people who reported
they have been poached away from a past partner are not as
consistent across regions as are the traits of mate poachers. Similar
to the traits of mate poachers, those who have succumbed to
poaching attempts tended to be disagreeable. These links were not
significant for men or women in Western Europe or the Middle
East, however. Contrary to the findings of Schmitt and Buss
(2001), the correlation between low conscientiousness and going
along with a mate-poaching attempt was nonsignificant for both
men and women in South America, the Middle East, South/
Southeast Asia, and East Asia.
People who reported having succumbed to a mate-poaching
attempt scored lower on relationship exclusivity than other people,
a finding that provides universal convergent validity to the ARAS
scale. People who reported succumbing to poachers also reported
more erotophilia, across most cultures. Finally, Schmitt and Buss
(2001) found that those who had gone along with a mate poach
were lower on the Emotional Investment scale of Schmitt and
Busss (2000) Sexy Seven Measure of sexuality attributes. This
pattern largely failed to replicate and was evident only in North
America, among men from South America and Oceania and
among women from South/Southeast Asia and East Asia.
In sum, the psychological profiles of mate poachers and mate-
poaching targets were similar across most cultures. Mate poachers
tended to be extraverted and disagreeable, as well as unfaithful and
erotophilic. Those who were common targets of poaching reported
high levels of extraversion and openness and described themselves
as sexually attractive, unfaithful, and erotophilic. These cross-
culturally pervasive linkages of personality, sexuality, and mate
poaching suggest that the psychology of mate poaching has uni-
versal qualities that are not limited to North Americas specific
sexual culture.
Hypothetical Links Between Culture and Mate Poaching
Mens occurrence and prevalence of short-term mate-poaching
attempts were positively correlated across world regions, r(8)
.92, p.001. Womens occurrence and prevalence of short-term
mate-poaching attempts also were positively correlated, r(8)
.96, p.001, as were the magnitudes of sex differences in the
occurrence and prevalence of short-term mate-poaching attempts,
r(8) .84, p.001. We collapsed poaching indicators across sex
and temporal context and created overall poaching scales for
Poaching Attempts, Poaching Success, Poaching Received, and
Poaching Succumbed. Again, most forms of mate poaching were
highly correlated across cultures. The sociocultural criterion vari-
ables used in this study were largely unrelated, though GDP per
capita and economic gender equity were significantly associated,
r(8) .73, p.01. The complete intercorrelation matrix of all
predictor and criterion variables is available from David P.
Schmitt.
Table 14
Are Men and Women Who More Often Succumb to Mate-Poaching Attempts More Disagreeable, Unconscientious, Unfaithful,
Erotophilic, and Unloving Than Others?
World region
Agreeableness Conscientiousness Relationship
exclusivity Erotophilic
disposition Emotional
investment
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
North America .08* .10*** .13*** .12*** .43*** .30*** .18*** .16*** .08** .05*
South America .17** .02 .02 .02 .21*** .23*** .04 .06 .14* .10
Western Europe .03 .04 .10** .14*** .43*** .37*** .12*** .17*** .02 .02
Eastern Europe .06 .06* .04 .12*** .29*** .30*** .14*** .19*** .01 .01
Southern Europe .17** .10* .14* .13** .37*** .17*** .21*** .07 .01 .01
Middle East .08 .00 .10 .02 .45*** .17** .15** .12* .08 .02
Africa .16** .15* .13* .24*** .26*** .31*** .10 .28*** .05 .11
Oceania .18** .11 .16* .02 .47*** .34*** .23*** .16** .17** .03
South/Southeast Asia .18** .02 .08 .07 .41*** .21** .29*** .17* .16* .14*
East Asia .03 .21** .11 .13 .35*** .38*** .21** .30*** .07 .23**
Worldwide sample .09*** .08*** .10*** .11*** .37*** .31*** .15*** .16*** .02 .03**
Note. Correlations represent partial correlations controlling for individual nation within region.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
575
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
Hypothesis 1. According to sexual strategies theory (Buss &
Schmitt, 1993), men desire multiple mating partners more than
women do, with mens strategy of short-term mate poaching
serving as a key avenue for obtaining multiple partners. We found
that proportionately more men than women across all regions of
the ISDP had attempted short-term mate poaches (see Table 2) and
that proportionately more men than women had succumbed to
short-term mate-poaching attempts (see Table 8). There was some
evidence that women report more success when they attempt
short-term mate poaching (see Table 5), a further indication that
men more easily succumb to short-term mate attempts than women
do. There also were indications that women report receiving short-
term poaching attempts more than men do (see Table 7), although
this finding was limited to North America, Western Europe, East-
ern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, and East Asia. Most
findings from this study supported Hypothesis 1 and, by implica-
tion, the broader theory that men desire multiple mates more than
women do (see Schmitt & ISDP, 2003).
Hypothesis 2. According to strategic pluralism theory (Gang-
estad & Simpson, 2000), biparental care of children and marital
fidelity should become more important in regions with high envi-
ronmental stress. One potential indicator of environmental stress is
scarcity of resources. The frequency of short-term mate poaching,
therefore, should be lower in regions with fewer resources. The per
capita GDP for each world region was related to several indexes of
short-term mate poaching. Although GDP was not related to at-
tempts at short-term poaching, GDP was correlated positively with
the regional occurrence of successful short-term mate poaching in
women, r(8) .58, p.05. GDP also was significantly correlated
with the rate at which women succumb to short-term poaching
attempts, r(8) .75, p.01. In men, this latter relationship fell
just short of statistical significance, r(8) .53, p.057. The
prevalence of women succumbing to short-term mate poaches also
was positively related to GDP, r(8) .73, p.01. After collaps-
ing across men and women, the relationship between GDP and the
occurrence of succumbing to short-term mate-poaching attempts
reached statistical significance, r(8) .76, p.01. A scatterplot
of this bivariate relationship across world regions is displayed in
Figure 1. As predicted by strategic pluralism theory (Gangestad &
Simpson, 2000), it appears that men and women in cultural regions
with fewer resources tend not to engage in successful short-term
mate poaching.
1
Women appeared to be slightly more affected by scarcity of
resources, with sex differences in the occurrence of successful
short-term mate poaching, r(8) ⫽⫺.56, p.05, and in succumb-
ing to short-term mate poaching, r(8) ⫽⫺.57, p.05, decreasing
as regional resources increased. The negative correlation between
resources and sex differences in short-term poaching also was
1
Tests for curvilinearity revealed no significant associations between
predictors and criteria.
Figure 1. Gross domestic product (per capita) related to the occurrence of people succumbing to a short-term
mate-poaching attempt across 10 world regions.
576 SCHMITT ET AL.
evident in the occurrence, r(8) ⫽⫺.78, p.01, and prevalence,
r(8) ⫽⫺.55, p.05, of self-reported poaching attempts. Thus, it
appears that increased levels of resources lead to smaller sex
differences in short-term poaching, primarily owing to the associ-
ated increase in womens short-term poaching.
We also related short-term mate-poaching experiences to the
socioeconomic status of men and women within each of the 10
world regions of the ISDP. Of particular interest were the partic-
ipantsreports of the socioeconomic status in which they were
raised. As seen in Table 15, men who reported making more
attempts at short-term poaching tended to come from a higher
socioeconomic background, r(6684) .05, p.001. Although
small in magnitude, this significant finding was present within the
specific regions of North America, Western Europe, the Middle
East, and Africa. This trend also was present among women,
r(9330) .02, p.05, including within the specific regions of
Southern Europe, South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia. As pre-
dicted, therefore, those with fewer resources tended to engage in
less short-term mate poaching. Mens and womens rates of suc-
cessful short-term poaching and reception of short-term poaching
attempts, as well as mens succumbing to short-term poaching,
also were significantly related to socioeconomic status in the
predicted direction. Overall, these individual-level findings pro-
vide further support for Hypothesis 2 and for the broader theory of
strategic pluralism (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).
Hypothesis 3. According to theories concerning human sex
ratios (Pedersen, 1991), as the ratio of men to women becomes
unbalanced in a culture, the pressure for finding a suitable mate
becomes greater on the more populous sex. Thus, in regions with
more women than men (with what is traditionally referred to as a
low sex ratio), it was expected that women would be more likely
to engage in mate poaching. We found this to be the case, with the
occurrence of womens short-term, r(8) ⫽⫺.63, p.05, and
long-term, r(8) ⫽⫺.62, p.05, mate-poaching attempts nega-
tively correlating with the average sex ratio across world regions.
We also found that the regional prevalence of womens short-term
poaching attempts was negatively correlated with sex ratio. How-
ever, we did not find that mens mate poaching increased with sex
ratio. Instead, mens poaching rates were negatively associated
with sex ratio across most indexes of poaching. Contrary to sex-
ratio theory, therefore, men in cultures with a surplus of men
reported fewer poaching attempts and poaching successes. Figure
2 portrays the regional levels of long-term mate-poaching attempts
(after collapsing across men and women) related to sex ratios
across world regions. Overall, regardless of whether short-term or
long-term poaching was considered, poaching rates tended to
increase when the percentage of women increased across regions.
As a result, sex-ratio theory was only partially confirmed in this
study.
Hypothesis 4. According to social structural theory (Eagly &
Wood, 1999; Wood & Eagly, 2002), womens greater access to
political and economic power should be associated with smaller
sex differences in sexuality. Several of the ISDP findings support
this hypothesis. For example, sex differences in the occurrence of
short-term mate-poaching attempts tended to be smaller in regions
with greater gender equality, as assessed by the Gender Develop-
ment Index, r(8) ⫽⫺.85, p.001. The relationship between
gender equality and sex differences in mate poaching appeared to
result primarily from womens increased poaching behavior in
egalitarian regions. Mens mate-poaching experiences tended to
decrease in some instances. For example, the prevalence of mens
long-term poaching attempts was negatively correlated with gen-
der egalitarianism, r(8) ⫽⫺.62, p.05. For women, long-term
poaching attempts were positively correlated with gender egalitar-
ianism, r(8) .45, p.10, though this association was only
marginally significant.
Womens access to greater political power, as indexed by the
percentage of women in parliament, was associated with increased
poaching by women. Mens poaching, however, also increased
with womens increased access to political power. For example,
the occurrence of womens short-term poaching attempts was
positively correlated with political equality, r(8) .72, p.01, as
was the prevalence of short-term poaching attempts, r(8) .72,
p.01. For men, the occurrence of short-term poaching attempts
was positively correlated with political equality, r(8) .50, p
.10, though again this association was only marginally significant.
Table 15
Prevalence of Short-Term Mate Poaching Related to Socioeconomic Status Across 10 World Regions
World region
Short-term mate-poaching experiences
Poaching attempts Poaching success Poaching received Poaching succumbed
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
North America .07** .00 .07* .04 .05 .00 .09** .01
South America .07 .02 .11 .08 .02 .01 .06 .02
Western Europe .11*** .01 .12*** .01 .11*** .06* .04 .02
Eastern Europe .06 .02 .02 .00 .06 .03 .02 .03
Southern Europe .05 .14*** .04 .14* .03 .10* .01 .00
Middle East .09* .08 .22** .11 .07 .09* .03 .04
Africa .12** .00 .11* .15* .10** .06 .13** .06
Oceania .09 .05 .05 .14 .05 .10 .03 .14*
South/Southeast Asia .12 .16** .10 .16 .02 .16** .13 .26**
East Asia .05 .08* .05 .11 .09* .08* .02 .03
Worldwide sample .05*** .02* .10*** .05*** .05*** .04*** .03* .02
Note. Correlations represent partial correlations controlling for individual nation within region.
*p.05. ** p.01. *** p.001.
577
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
Overall, social structural theory was largely supported in this
study.
Discussion
Mate-poaching experiences can have important social conse-
quences for all those involved, including retributional violence,
social ostracism, cuckoldry, jealousy, and relationship dissolution
(Schmitt & Buss, 2001; Schmitt & Shackelford, 2003). Unfortu-
nately, mate poaching is often cloaked in secrecy, making it
difficult to study with the research methods currently available to
social scientists. Even so, the present findingsbased on anony-
mous self-report surveys administered to 16,954 people around the
worldyield three fundamental conclusions. First, mate poaching
is a cultural universal, at least across the 10 world regions of the
ISDP. Many people from North America, South America, Western
Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa,
Oceania, South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia report that they have
attempted, received, and occasionally succumbed to the experience
of poaching. Second, mate poachers and their targets possess the
same basic personality traits across all world regions, with extra-
version, agreeableness, openness, and erotophilia serving as the
primary correlates of mate poaching. Third, mate-poaching expe-
riences are associated with aspects of culture in ways that support
several evolutionary theories of human mating. Each of these
findings, along with associated limitations, is addressed more fully
below.
Frequency of Mate Poaching
Across the 10 world regions of the ISDP, around 60% of men
and 40% of women admit that they have tried to poach someone
elses partner, either for the purpose of having a short-term sexual
relationship or for the purpose of forming a new long-term mating
alliance. Among those who have attempted to poach, the occur-
rence of successful poaching was substantial (often over 80%).
The prevalence of short-term and long-term mate-poaching at-
tempts only ranged from rarelyto seldom,but the prevalence
rating of success among those who have attempted poaching
centered on the midpoint (i.e., moderate success) of the scales
used in this study.
Nearly 70% of people report that someone has tried to poach
them, and around 50% of those who have been tempted by a
would-be mate poacher have succumbed to that attempt. Given
that a single poaching attempt can cause significant discord in a
romantic relationship and that merely one poaching success can
result in severe social and reproductive consequences, the current
findings suggest that the problem of mate poaching has far-
reaching relevance. Whether in the form of brief short-term deser-
tions or permanent long-term defections, it appears that mate
poaching is a culturally universal human experience, one that is
undoubtedly related to the strong feelings of jealousy, rage, and
betrayal that have coevolved as part of the human condition (Buss,
2000; Shackelford & Buss, 1996; Shackelford et al., 2000).
Figure 2. Operational sex ratio related to the percentage of people who have attempted to poach a long-term
mate across 10 world regions.
578 SCHMITT ET AL.
Mate poaching sometimes leads to positive outcomes as well. In
almost every region we studied, around 10% of romantic relation-
ships were the result of mate poaching, and around 3% were the
result of two people poaching one another out of their old rela-
tionships and into a new mateship. Mate poaching, it appears, can
lead to the successful development of new romantic partnerships.
How long these poaching-based relationships will last is an im-
portant question for future research. In this study, we can gain
some insight into this question by examining the personal charac-
teristics of mate poachers.
Personality of Mate Poaching
The personal characteristics of those who poach and those who
are targets of poaching conform to a consistent pattern across most
world regions. Those who attempt to poach anothers partner are
especially extraverted, disagreeable, unconscientious, unfaithful,
and erotophilic. As documented in previous studies, mate poachers
appear to possess certain personality traits (i.e., assertiveness com-
bined with the tendency to be unempathetic) that are indicative of
narcissism (see Foster et al., 2002) and may reflect a heritable or
ecologically evoked orientation to short-term mating more gener-
ally (Bailey, Kirk, Zhu, Dunne, & Martin, 2000; MacDonald,
1998; Rowe, 2002). Among those who attempt to poach, the most
successful mate poachers are those who are open to experience,
sexually attractive, unfaithful, and erotophilic. The finding that
those with high sexual attractiveness are more successful would
seem to confirm that the mate preferences involved in general
romantic attraction (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) are operative in the
psychology of human mate poaching as well.
Common targets of mate poaching express high levels of extra-
version, openness, attractiveness, unfaithfulness, and erotophilia.
Those who succumb to mate poachers are particularly disagree-
able, unconscientious, unfaithful, erotophilic and, in Western cul-
tures, unloving. This heuristic guide to the psychology of mate
poachers and those who are poached should be useful to future
studies in which individual differences in mate poaching and their
implications are more fully explored. As a whole, these results
suggest that mate poaching is an important and, at least in some
ways, psychologically distinct form of romantic attraction. It also
can be concluded that, although mate poaching leads to new
relationships, the personality traits of those who engage in and
succumb to mate poaching (i.e., disagreeableness, unfaithfulness,
and erotophilia) lead us to conclude that these new relationships
may not be long lasting.
Culture of Mate Poaching
We tested four hypotheses about the cultural patterns and uni-
versals of human mate poaching. Hypothesis 1 was strongly sup-
ported. Proportionately more men than women pursue short-term
mate poaching across all ISDP regions. This is true when assessed
in terms of the occurrence and prevalence of short-term mate
poaching. Men also disproportionately succumb to womens short-
term poaching attempts. Whether assessed with occurrence or
prevalence rates, the ISDP findings confirm that men seek and go
along with short-term mate poaching more than women do, pre-
cisely as predicted by sexual strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt,
1993).
Two other findings provide support for Hypothesis 1. First,
women tend to report receiving more short-term poaching attempts
than men, though this sex difference is limited to prevalence rates
in North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle
East, Africa, and Oceania. Given the tendency for men to over-
perceive the sexual interests and intentions of women (Haselton &
Buss, 2000), this finding provides a reasonable level of support for
Hypothesis 1. Second, women in several world regions report
significantly more success than men do when pursuing short-term
poaches. Again, this is not a universal finding and is limited to
prevalence rates in the regions of North America, Western Europe,
Eastern Europe, and Oceania. Overall, this portrait of short-term
poaching confirms that men seek out short-term mateships more
than women and buttresses the more general hypothesis that men
possess psychological adaptations that give rise to the desire for
multiple sexual partners (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt & ISDP,
2003).
Hypothesis 2 was partially supported. Across some, but not all,
measures of short-term mate poaching, regions with fewer re-
sources tend to have lower rates of short-term mate poaching.
These findings support the view that humans might possess envi-
ronmentally sensitive adaptations that influence mating strategy.
When in resource-poor environments, it appears that humans pur-
sue more long-term, monogamous mating strategies. When in
resource-rich environments, in contrast, short-term strategies that
include mate-poaching behaviors are more common, a finding that
fits with the functional view of strategic pluralism theory (Gang-
estad & Simpson, 2000). Still, given the correlational methodology
of the present investigation, this conclusion must be considered
tentative. Future longitudinal studies showing shifts in poaching
behavior that correspond with concurrent shifts in resources across
cultures would bring much needed convergent support for this
hypothesis.
The associations among environmental indicators and mate-
poaching behaviors in this study seem to run counter to some
well-established findings of attachment researchers. Several stud-
ies have shown that children from poor, unstable, and high-stress
home environments tend to develop insecure parentchild attach-
ment styles (Belsky, 1999), attachment styles that presumably give
rise to insecure romantic attachment orientations in adulthood
(Belsky, Steinberg, & Draper, 1991). These insecure adult attach-
ments are thought to share many of the basic features of short-term
mating strategies (Kirkpatrick, 1998), including earlier and more
prolific reproduction (Chisholm, 1996). Thus, an attachment per-
spective would expect that people from resource-poor regions (i.e.,
low GDP) would exhibit more short-term mate poaching, not less
as was evident in the current ISDP investigation.
A recent study by Barber (2003) may shed light on these
conflicting pieces of evidence. Barber documented across 85 na-
tions that national levels of GDP were negatively related to teen
birth rates. Thus, resource-poor environments were associated with
higher rates of early reproduction, precisely as predicted from the
attachment perspective. However, resource-poor environments
(i.e., lower levels of GDP) also were associated with lower non-
marital or single-mother birth rates. Thus, as cultural regions
possessed greater resources, Barber (2003) found that rates of
women giving birth without being married (i.e., more short-term
mating) actually increased, precisely as predicted by strategic
pluralism theory (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). An integrated
579
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
explanation of these findings and those of the current study may
reside in the idea that environmental resource levels affect differ-
ent components of short-term mating strategies in different ways.
The early reproduction component of short-term mating (e.g., high
teen birth rates) appears to be activated or evoked by exposure to
low-resource levels. The adult components of short-term mating
(e.g., high single-parenthood and more prevalent short-term poach-
ing) appear to be activated by high-resource levels. Future studies
looking at these variables both within and across cultures, partic-
ularly those that study changes over time, will be needed to fully
address this issue.
Hypothesis 3 received partial support (Pedersen, 1991). As the
number of women outsizes the number of men across regions (i.e.,
low sex ratios), women are more likely to engage in mate poach-
ing. This is true for both short-term and long-term poaching among
women. As the number of men outsizes the number of women,
however, men are not more likely to engage in mate poaching.
Instead, mens poaching rates are negatively associated with sex
ratio. Why does an excess of women, but not men, lead to more
poaching by both sexes? One speculation is that shifts in sex ratio
drive mating systems as a whole, not just the mating psychology of
one sex. When women are abundant and men are a scarce resource,
men may be able to command more promiscuity on the part of
women, and the entire mating system (for both men and women)
may shift toward promiscuity (Schmitt, 2003). Regardless of
whether mens or womens short-term or long-term poaching is
considered, mate poaching (a form of promiscuity) tends to in-
crease overall when the percentage of women increases across
regions. Barber (2003) found similar results with male-biased sex
ratios correlating negatively with both teen birth rates and single-
parent rates across 85 nations.
Hypothesis 4 was largely supported (Eagly & Wood, 1999). As
womens access to resources increases across regions, womens
rates of short-term poaching increase and sex differences in short-
term mate poaching are reduced. In many cases, mens short-term
poaching also increases, but to a lesser extent than womens.
Womens greater access to political power is equally associated
with increases in women and mens poaching-related behavior
and, as a result, sex differences in poaching are generally unrelated
to the prevalence of women in parliament across regions. Appar-
ently, greater political gender equity does not always result in
attenuated sex differences. Instead, it appears to accentuate both
men and womens poaching-related behavior (see also Schmitt,
2003).
Overall, the influence of culture on human mate poaching ap-
pears to be profound. Although proportionately more men than
women seek short-term mate poaches across all regions of the
ISDP, this effect is tempered by several cultural factors. When in
resource-rich environments, for example, both men and women
tend to engage in more short-term mate poaching. When women
gain access to greater resources, women especially tend to engage
in more short-term mate poaching and, as a result, the magnitude
of sex differences in seeking and succumbing to short-term
poaches is attenuated (though never eliminated). Finally, when the
number of women is greater than the number of men in a region,
people tend to engage in long-term and short-term mate poaching
at higher rates as the entire mating system moves toward sexual
promiscuity.
In science, the most valued studies often are those that directly
contrast competing theories and are able to rule out one hypothesis
in favor of another. In the present study, the most consistent
finding was that men more than women seek and succumb to
short-term mate poaching across all regions of the ISDP. However,
all theories of human mating subjected to testing in this study
received at least some empirical support. As a result, we are left
with the relatively unsatisfying conclusion that mate-poaching
experiences are predictable from several theoretical perspectives,
none of which is conspicuously superior to the others. Perhaps in
future investigations, additional measures and variables can be
used that will better determine whether one of these competing
theories is superior to the others.
Limitations and Future Research Directions
This study is limited in several ways. Five particular concerns
lead us to interpret our results with caution. First, the samples
included in this study are mostly comprised of undergraduate
students. A number of studies suggest that many undergraduates
do form long-term mating relationships, with roughly 50% being
in enduring relationships at any one point in time (Buss et al.,
1992; Schmitt & Buss, 2001). A case can be made that issues of
mate poaching are more prevalent for young adults than for other
samples. Future research nevertheless should explore mate-
poaching frequency and personality among older, more diverse,
and more committed samples. A number of studies suggest that
men are most jealous and vigilant about potential poachers when
married to young and attractive women (Buss & Shackelford,
1997), suggesting that young married couples might be an ideal
sample to study issues of mate-poaching psychology. On the other
hand, actual rates of infidelity appear to increase among women in
the mid-30s (Baker & Bellis, 1995), suggesting that sexual deser-
tions (which may reflect successful short-term mate-poaching at-
traction) are more common in later stages of adulthood. Studies of
different age samples could explore these important developmental
and life span dimensions of the mate-poaching experience.
Second, participants were not asked about the quality or satis-
faction of their previous or current relationships. It seems likely
that the quality of romantic relationships would be a determining
factor in making mate-poaching attempts (Schmitt & Buss, 2001).
The percentages of men and women who are in unsatisfying
relationships, however, may vary cross-culturally with marriage
customs, degree of matrilocality, and economic conditions. These
extraneous factors, therefore, may be associated with the regional
and sex differences found in the current study. Although the
precise connections among these factors may be difficult to deter-
mine, it will be especially important for future investigations of
mate poaching to assess the quality or satisfaction people have
with their current relationships.
A third shortcoming of this study is that some samples may have
been especially unrepresentative of their region. In the ISDP
samples from Africa, for example, most participants were college
students. College students are probably unrepresentative of Afri-
can populations, perhaps more so than for other world regions. In
addition, several nations from the full ISDP were not administered
the mate-poaching questions from the ISDP survey. Nations such
as Jordan, India, and Fiji would have added more variability to our
regional database and improved the testing of evolutionary and
580 SCHMITT ET AL.
social-role theories. Future research that includes larger and truly
representative samples from a wider range of cultural regions is
needed to more accurately relate United Nations databases to
profiles of mate poaching.
A fourth limitation of the current study involves the region-level
evaluation of the current set of hypotheses. Indeed, even the use of
national indexes such as GDP and other United Nations indicators
is less than ideal for testing many of the theories presented in this
article. Although GDP certainly reflects some degree of environ-
mental demand, it is not a measure of the demanding nature of
environments, in situ. It is simply a regional average that may have
only limited relationships with an individual participants family
history and socioeconomic condition. We did measure individual
socioeconomic status and this was related in predictable ways to
poaching behavior. However, we feel the current analyses should
be considered merely a first step in theory testing and development
concerning the patterns and universals of human mate poaching
across cultures.
A final limitation of the current study is its reliance on self-
report methodology. When comparing the scores of different cul-
tures on mate-poaching scales, any observed differences may be
due not only to a real cultural disparity in some aspect of poaching,
but also to inappropriate translations, biased sampling, or the
nonidentical response styles of people from different cultures
(Grimm & Church, 1999). In this study, it was assumed that
reported perceptions of mate poaching were reasonably veridical
representations of actual mate-poaching experiences. The many
universal personality correlates suggest that our key concepts were
being similarly measured across languages. Fully establishing
veridicality would be an extraordinarily difficult task, given that
mate poaching is often conducted in secret, making observational
studies almost impossible to conduct. Still, in-depth interviews of
successful mate poachers, as well as those who have been lured by
mate poaching, may be one step toward providing convergent
evidence of the current results. Perhaps assessing mate-poaching
reactions in laboratory experiments (e.g., Schmitt, Couden, &
Baker, 2001) or capitalizing on social psychological principles
such as contrast effects (e.g., Kenrick, Neuberg, Zierk, & Krones,
1994) would help to establish the validity of the sex and regional
differences in mate poaching found in this study. Cross-cultural
studies in which more specific poaching behaviors are assessed,
such as whether people have kissed someone who was already in
a relationship, would further allow for clearer measurement equiv-
alence across cultures and languages. Although the current study is
the broadest investigation ever undertaken to reveal this hidden
side of human romance, the clandestine complexity of mate poach-
ing leaves much work to be done.
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The 121 coauthors of this article include the following: Lidia
Alcalay, Pontificia Universidad Cato´lica de Chile, Chile; Ju¨ri
Allik, University of Tartu, Estonia; Alois Angleitner, University of
Bielefeld, Germany; Lara Ault, University of Louisville; Ivars
Austers, University of Latvia, Latvia; Kevin L. Bennett, University
of New Mexico; Gabriel Bianchi, Slovak Academy of Sciences,
Slovak Republic; Fredrick Boholst, University of San Carlos,
Philippines; Mary Ann Borg Cunen, University of Malta, Malta;
Johan Braeckman, Ghent University, Belgium; Edwin G. Brainerd,
Jr., Clemson University; Leo Gerard A. Caral, University of San
Carlos, Philippines; Gabrielle Caron, Universite´of Laval, Canada;
Maria Martina Casullo, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina;
Michael Cunningham, University of Louisville; Ikuo Daibo, Osaka
University, Japan; Charlotte De Backer, Ghent University, Bel-
gium; Eros De Souza, Illinois State University; Rolando Diaz-
Loving, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico;
Gla´ucia Diniz, University of Brasilia, Brazil; Kevin Durkin, The
University of Western Australia, Australia; Marcela Echegaray,
University of Lima, Peru; Ekin Eremsoy, Bogazic¸iU
¨niversitesi,
Turkey; Harald A. Euler, University of Kassel, Germany; Ruth
Falzon, University of Malta, Malta; Maryanne L. Fisher, York
University, Canada; Dolores Foley, University of Queensland,
Australia; Douglas P. Fry, Åbo Akademi University, Finland;
Sirpa Fry, Åbo Akademi University, Finland; M. Arif Ghayur,
Al-Akhawayn University, Morocco; Debra L. Golden, University
of Hawaii at Manoa; Karl Grammer, Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute
for Urban Ethology, Austria; Liria Grimaldi, University of Ca-
tania, Italy; Jamin Halberstadt, University of Otago, New Zealand;
Shamsul Haque, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh; Dora Herrera,
University of Lima, Peru; Janine Hertel, Technische Universita¨t
Chemnitz, Germany; Heather Hoffmann, Knox College; Danica
Hooper, University of Queensland, Australia; Zuzana Hradilekova,
Comenius University, Slovak Republic; Jasna Hudek-Kene-evi,
University of Rijeka, Croatia; Jas Jaafar, University of Malaya,
Malaysia; Margarita Jankauskaite, Vilnius University, Lithuania;
Heidi Kabangu-Stahel, Centre dEnseignement les Gazelles, Dem-
ocratic Republic of the Congo; Igor Kardum, University of Rijeka,
Croatia; Brigitte Khoury, American University of Beirut, Lebanon;
Hayrran Kwon, Kwangju Health College, Republic of Korea; Kaia
Laidra, University of Tartu, Estonia; Anton-Rupert Laireiter, In-
stitute of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Austria; Dustin
Lakerveld, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands; Ada Lampert,
The Ruppin Institute, Israel; Maryanne Lauri, University of Malta,
Malta; Marguerite Lavalle´e, Universite´of Laval, Canada; Suk-Jae
Lee, National Computerization Agency, Republic of Korea; Luk
Chung Leung, City University of Hong Kong, China; Kenneth D.
Locke, University of Idaho; Vance Locke, The University of
Western Australia, Australia; Ivan Luksik, Slovak Academy of
Sciences, Slovak Republic; Ishmael Magaisa, University of Zim-
babwe, Zimbabwe; Dalia Marcinkeviciene, Vilnius University,
Lithuania; Andre´Mata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; Rui Mata,
University of Lisbon, Portugal; Barry McCarthy, University of
Central Lancashire, England; Michael E. Mills, Loyola Mary-
mount University; Nhlanhla J. Mkhize, University of Natal, South
Africa; Joa˜o Moreira, University of Lisbon, Portugal; Se´rgio
Moreira, University of Lisbon, Portugal; Miguel Moya, University
of Granada, Spain; M. Munyae, University of Botswana, Bo-
tswana; Patricia Noller, University of Queensland, Australia; Ad-
rian Opre, Babes Bolyai University, Romania; Alexia Panayiotou,
583
MATE POACHING ACROSS CULTURES
University of Cyprus, Cyprus; Nebojsa Petrovic, University of
Belgrade, Serbia; Karolien Poels, Ghent University, Belgium; Mi-
roslav Popper, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovak Republic;
Maria Poulimenou, KPMG Kyriacou Counsultants SA, Greece;
Volodymyr Pyatokha, Volyn Regional Hospital, Ukraine; Michel
Raymond, Universite´de Montpellier II, France; Ulf-Dietrich
Reips, Universita¨tZu¨rich, Switzerland; Susan E. Reneau, Univer-
sity of Alabama; Sofia Rivera-Aragon, National Autonomous Uni-
versity of Mexico, Mexico; Wade C. Rowatt, Baylor University;
Willibald Ruch, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland;
Velko S. Rus, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; Marilyn P. Safir,
University of Haifa, Israel; Sonia Salas, Universidad de La Serena,
Chile; Fabio Sambataro, University of Catania, Italy; Kenneth N.
Sandnabba, Åbo Akademi University, Finland; Marion K. Schul-
meyer, Universidad Privada de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia;
Astrid Schu¨tz, Technische Universita¨t Chemnitz, Germany; Tullio
Scrimali, University of Catania, Italy; Todd K. Shackelford, Flor-
ida Atlantic University; Phillip R. Shaver, University of Califor-
nia-Davis; Francis Sichona, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanza-
nia; Franco Simonetti, Pontificia Universidad Cato´lica de Chile,
Chile; Tilahun Sineshaw, Ramapo College of New Jersey; R.
Sookdew, University of Natal, South Africa; Tom Speelman,
Ghent University, Belgium; Spyros Spyrou, Cyprus College,
Cyprus; H. Canan Su¨mer, Middle East Technical University, Tur-
key; Nebi Su¨mer, Middle East Technical University, Turkey;
Marianna Supekova, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovak Repub-
lic; Tomasz Szlendak, Nicholas Copernicus University, Poland;
Bert Timmermans, Vrije Universiteit, Belgium; William Tooke,
SUNY-Plattsburgh; Ioannis Tsaousis, University of the Aegean,
Greece; F. S. K. Tungaraza, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanza-
nia; Frank Van Overwalle, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium;
Griet Vandermassen, Ghent University, Belgium; Tim Vanhoom-
issen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; Ine Vanwesenbeeck,
Netherlands Institute of Social Sexological Research, the Nether-
lands; Paul L. Vasey, University of Lethbridge, Canada; Joa˜o
Verissimo, University of Lisbon, Portugal; Martin Voracek, Uni-
versity of Vienna Medical School, Austria; Wendy W. N. Wan,
University of Hong Kong, China; Ta-Wei Wang, National Chan-
ghua University of Education, Taiwan; Peter Weiss, Charles Uni-
versity, Czech Republic; Andik Wijaya, Couple Clinic Indonesia,
Surabaya, Indonesia; Liesbeth Woertman, Utrecht University, the
Netherlands; Gahyun Youn, Chonnam National University, Re-
public of Korea; and Agata Zupane`ie`, University of Ljubljana,
Slovenia.
Received November 6, 2002
Revision received November 4, 2003
Accepted November 6, 2003
584 SCHMITT ET AL.
... Mate poaching is a frequent and potent form of romantic attraction in humans throughout the world (Schmitt et al., 2004;Schmitt & Shackelford, 2008). Research on a large sample of participants from 53 nations across 10 world regions found that around 60% of men and 40% of women admitted attempting to poach someone else's partner for a short-term sexual relationship or a new long-term relationship, with over 80% of both men and women reporting some poaching successes. ...
... Research on a large sample of participants from 53 nations across 10 world regions found that around 60% of men and 40% of women admitted attempting to poach someone else's partner for a short-term sexual relationship or a new long-term relationship, with over 80% of both men and women reporting some poaching successes. Nearly 70% of women and men reported that someone had attempted to poach them for a short-term or long-term relationship, with about 50% of women and 60% of men reporting being successfully poached (Schmitt et al., 2004). Proportionally fewer women sought and succumbed to short-term poaching across all world regions, whereas in the majority of regions they more frequently reported being the target of short-term poaching attempts as well as being more successful in poaching attempts than men (Schmitt et al., 2004). ...
... Nearly 70% of women and men reported that someone had attempted to poach them for a short-term or long-term relationship, with about 50% of women and 60% of men reporting being successfully poached (Schmitt et al., 2004). Proportionally fewer women sought and succumbed to short-term poaching across all world regions, whereas in the majority of regions they more frequently reported being the target of short-term poaching attempts as well as being more successful in poaching attempts than men (Schmitt et al., 2004). ...
Article
Full-text available
Mate poaching is "behavior intended to attract someone who is already in a romantic relationship." We investigated actor and partner effects of the five-factor personality traits and the dark triad traits on several mate poaching experiences. We used actor-partner interdependence modeling with data secured from both members of 187 heterosexual married, cohabiting and dating couples from Croatia. In a round-robin design, each participant rated their own and their partner's personality traits, and their own poaching experiences. The results showed that men's lower agreeableness had the most consistent relationship with poaching experiences in both men (actor effects) and women (partner effects). The role of other personality traits from the five-factor model was limited to specific aspects of poaching. Regarding the dark triad traits, men's psychopathy and Machiavellianism were the most consistently related to poaching experiences in both men and women, whereas narcissism did not demonstrate a consistent actor or partner effect on poaching. The results showed that men's poaching is associated with their own personality traits, whereas women's poaching with their own and their partner's personality traits. We interpret the results in the context of life history theory and mate switching hypothesis.
... Most relationships work has explored how dyadic partners affect each other and their focal relationship. As a consequence, there has been relative inattention to the masses of third parties who come to populate our social worlds via our existing partners (e.g., Wang & Todd, 2020); yet such third parties are perhaps one of the more overlooked factors that sustain or diminish-that is, affect-our dyadic relationships DeScioli & Kurzban, 2009;Feld, 1981;Krems et al., 2021;Parker et al., 2005;Rose, 1984;Schmitt, 2004). For example, on one hand, the third parties we meet via existing dyadic partners can buffer our relationships against conflict (e.g., Benenson, 2014). ...
... For example, on one hand, the third parties we meet via existing dyadic partners can buffer our relationships against conflict (e.g., Benenson, 2014). On the other, these same third parties can ruin our existing relationships and poach our partners (e.g., Owens et al., 2000;Schmitt, 2004). ...
... But there are also some exceptions. For example, when people's romantic partners are courted by a third party, people often report feelings of jealousy and antipathy toward the 'interloper' (e.g., Buss, 2000;Krems et al., 2021;Parker et al., 2005;Schmitt, 2004;Schmitt & Buss, 2001). How can we reconcile this? ...
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Research on close relationships has tended to focus on the dyad (e.g., friends, romantic partners, rivals). Less attention has been paid to the myriad third parties who impact our social lives through their own relationships with our dyadic partners. What drives our feelings toward such third parties? A classic formalist theory, Balance Theory, suggests we like third parties who share our feelings toward our existing partners (and dislike those who do not) because of affective balance. Here, we propose a new embedded dyad framework which foregrounds the substantive indirect effects that third parties can have on our outcomes through their relationships with our partners. Consistent with the embedded dyad framework, we find that people like third parties who share our hatred for our rivals and our love for our friends (as predicted by both views); but we dislike those who share our love for our spouses (countering Balance Theory). Further supporting predictions uniquely derived from an embedded dyad framework, (a) greater perceived exclusivity in positive dyadic relationships (e.g., friendships) drives dislike toward third parties who share our love for our positive partners; (b) greater perceived welfare suppression by our negative partners (e.g., rivals) drives liking toward third parties who share our hatred of our negative partners. This framework thus critically extends cognitive consistency views by emphasizing the real costs and benefits of navigating dyadic relationships within larger social networks.
... Mate poaching involves attempting to have romantic and/ or sexual relations with someone who is known to be in an exclusive relationship with another person (Davies et al., 2007;Davies et al., 2019; see also : Schmitt & Buss, 2001). 1 Schmitt et al. (2004) identified that 62% of North American men and 40% of women have attempted to poach for a short-term relationship. Comparatively, 63% of North American men and 52% of women have attempted poaching to form a long-term relationship (Schmitt et al., 2004). ...
... Mate poaching involves attempting to have romantic and/ or sexual relations with someone who is known to be in an exclusive relationship with another person (Davies et al., 2007;Davies et al., 2019; see also : Schmitt & Buss, 2001). 1 Schmitt et al. (2004) identified that 62% of North American men and 40% of women have attempted to poach for a short-term relationship. Comparatively, 63% of North American men and 52% of women have attempted poaching to form a long-term relationship (Schmitt et al., 2004). Of all North American mate poachers, over 75% reported some success in their short-and long-term attempts. ...
... To our knowledge, only one study has examined the relationship between sex ratios and mate poaching. Schmitt et al. (2004) found that both women's long-term and short-term mate poaching were more likely to occur in cultures with a sex ratio biased toward women. In contrast, male mate poaching was not more frequent when the sex ratio was biased toward men -but rather, they exhibited less mate poaching. ...
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... Subjective preference for attractive faces may also be modulated by the relationship status of the potential partner; that is, people tend to devalue attractive opposite-sex individuals who are in a relationship with a significant other. This kind of derogation seems to reflect the avoidance of "mate poaching" (Schmitt and Buss, 2001;Schmitt et al., 2004). Our previous work reported that individuals characterized by greater mOFC responses demonstrated a greater preference for hypothetical partners in a relationship with a significant other , suggesting that this region might underpin the deliberate evaluation of potential partners (Kim et al., 2007;Chatterjee et al., 2009). ...
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