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The height of choosiness: Mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation for both sexes

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Mutual mate choice is prevalent in humans, where both males and females have a say in their choice of partner. How the choices made by one sex constrain the choice of the other remains poorly understood, however, because human studies have mostly limited themselves to measuring preferences. We used a sample of 5782 speed-daters making 128 104 choices to link preferences for partner height to actual choice and the formation of a match (the mutual expression of interest to meet again). We show that sexual conflict at the level of preferences is translated into choice: women were most likely to choose a speed-dater 25 cm taller than themselves, whereas men were most likely to choose women only 7 cm shorter than themselves. As a consequence, matches were most likely at an intermediate height difference (19 cm) that differed significantly from the preferred height difference of both sexes. Thus, our study reveals how mutual mate choice can result in suboptimal pair formation for both sexes, highlighting the importance of assessing the mate choice process in its entirety.
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The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal
pair formation for both sexes
Gert Stulp
a
,
b
,
*
, Abraham P. Buunk
a
,
c
, Robert Kurzban
d
,
e
, Simon Verhulst
b
a
Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
b
Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
c
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
d
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
e
Department of Economics, University of Alaska, Anchorage, U.S.A.
article info
Article history:
Received 19 December 2012
Initial acceptance 22 January 2013
Final acceptance 11 March 2013
Available online xxx
MS. number: 12-00965
Keywords:
human
mutual mate choice
pair formation
sexual selection
speed dating
stature
Mutual mate choice is prevalent in humans, where both males and females have a say in their choice of
partner. How the choices made by one sex constrain the choice of the other remains poorly understood,
however, because human studies have mostly limited themselves to measuring preferences. We used a
sample of 5782 speed-daters making 128 104 choices to link preferences for partner height to actual
choice and the formation of a match (the mutual expression of interest to meet again). We show that
sexual conict at the level of preferences is translated into choice: women were most likely to choose a
speed-dater 25 cm taller than themselves, whereas men were most likely to choose women only 7 cm
shorter than themselves. As a consequence, matches were most likely at an intermediate height dif-
ference (19 cm) that differed signicantly from the preferred height difference of both sexes. Thus, our
study reveals how mutual mate choice can result in suboptimal pair formation for both sexes, high-
lighting the importance of assessing the mate choice process in its entirety.
Ó2013 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Finding a suitable mate to form a reproductive unit is complex,
owing to the many factors that prevent an individual from
obtaining his or her preferred partner. First, mates with the desired
properties might not be available and, even if they are, individuals
might have insufcient time to assess all available possible mates
(Reynolds & Gross 1990;Widemo & Sæther 1999;Fawcett &
Johstone 2003;Cotton et al. 2006). Second, some desired charac-
teristics might trade off against each other; for instance, attrac-
tiveness might trade off against willingness or ability to provide
parental investment (Magrath & Komdeur 2003); obtaining a mate
with the desired level of both characteristics might, as a conse-
quence, be impossible.
Relatedly, other individualspursuit of their own interests can
impair mating with preferred individuals. In many species,
including humans, mating is a two-sided affair: individuals who
prefer a given partner must themselves be chosen as a mate by that
individual (Johnstone et al. 1996;Baldauf et al. 2009). In addition,
third parties, especially same-sex rivals, can interfere with
obtaining ones desired mates (Wong & Candolin 2005). Further-
more, even successful pair formation (i.e. pair bonding) always
entails the risk that, at some point in the future, the partner may
move to a more attractive alternative (Rusbult & Buunk 1993). For
these and other reasons, any given individuals mate preferences
are unlikely to be completely satised.
In part because of the difculty of tracking choice and pairing,
the study of mate choice has focused to a large extent on measuring
preferences (Courtiol et al. 2010b). How preferences translate to
actual choices and subsequent pairing remains unclear. One win-
dow onto the relationships between preferences, choice and pair-
ing is so-called speed-dating events. During a speed-dating event,
participants meet approximately 10e30 individuals in a series of
3e7 min datesafter which they discretely indicate whether they
are interested in further contact (Yes/No). When a Yesis recip-
rocated, they make a Match, and contact details are subsequently
provided to enable participants to arrange a more traditional date if
desired (Kurzban & Weeden 2005,2007;Finkel & Eastwick 2008;
Lenton & Francesconi 2011). Although such matchesdo not inev-
itably lead to the formation of an actual relationship, people who
were matched with at least one person during speed dating had a
*Correspondence: G. Stulp, Department of Psychology, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1,
9712 TS, Groningen, The Netherlands.
E-mail address: g.stulp@rug.nl (G. Stulp).
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Animal Behaviour
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/anbehav
0003-3472/$38.00 Ó2013 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e10
Please cite this article in press as: Stulp, G., et al., The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation
for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
10.9% chance of engaging in sexual intercourse with a match
within 6 weeks of the event, while the chance of a more serious
relationship after 1 year was 7.2% (Asendorpf et al. 2011). Thus,
speed dating is an ecologically relevant setting to study pair
formation.
Data from speed-dating events have some advantages over self-
report questionnaire- or vignette-based studies, having greater
ecological validity and allowing a look at the effects of mutual mate
choice. More importantly for the present purpose, speed dating
allows researchers to determine how mate preferences, self-
reported indications of what individuals want in a mate, translate
into the choices that individuals actually make, and how these
choices translate into subsequent potential pairing. We thus treated
the speed-dating venue as a model systemthat enabled us to
interrogate human mate choice processes in a manner directly
comparable to those of other species (Lenton et al. 2009). To this
end, we operationalized denitions related to preference, choice
and pairing as used in the mate choice literature (Fowler-Finn &
Rodríguez 2012a,b) for use within a speed-dating context,
focusing on partner height as a preference variable (see Table 1).
Previous studies that have addressed the interplay between
preferences, choice and pairing in speed dating have shown that
stated preferences are generally poor predictors of choice, in that
many nonpreferredindividuals are also chosen (Kurzban &
Weeden 2007;Todd et al. 2007;Eastwick & Finkel 2008;
Eastwick et al. 2011). Preferences also fail to predict which potential
mates are pursued after a speed-dating event (Eastwick & Finkel
2008). Furthermore, choices made during speed-dating events
were only weakly reciprocated between partners (Luo & Zhang
2009;Back et al. 2011).
The present analysis has several advantages over previous work.
First, we examined preferences, choice and pairing simultaneously.
Second, we focused on one trait, height, which is a particularly
useful trait to study because: (1) it is an easily veried objective
measure (in contrast to, e.g. kindness or reported income); (2) both
sexes show height preferences (Courtiol et al. 2010a;Stulp et al.
2013b); (3) partner heights correlate positively (Spuhler 1982;
Stulp et al. 2011) and men are taller than their partner more often
than expected by chance alone (Gillis & Avis 1980;Stulp et al.
2013a), indicating that pairing with respect to height is
nonrandom; and (4) both male and female heights are related to
the number of children produced (Stulp et al. 2012a,b,c), indicating
that pair formation with respect to height can affect reproductive
success and thereby has evolutionary relevance. Another advantage
of our study is that a clearly dened partner preference was
available (i.e. preferred partner height), allowing a direct compar-
ison with the response to heights. This compares favourably to
previous studies, where preferences have most commonly been
measured using a subjective scale (e.g. rate on a scale how
important physical attractiveness is in an ideal romantic partner;
see Kurzban & Weeden 2005 for a notable exception). Finally,
because we could combine the specic preferences and choices of
both sexes simultaneously, we were able to assess potential con-
icts over partner height, and so examine how mutual mate choice
affects nal pairing.
Previous work indicates that preference functions for height in
both sexes do not align, creating a sexual conict over partner
height (Baldauf et al. 2009;Courtiol et al. 2010a; see Table 1). The
present work rst reproduced this nding, and, subsequently, we
tested (1) whether stated preferences for partner height translated
into actual choice during speed dating and (2) whether height was
related to responsiveness (while others might use terms such as
selectivityor choosiness,we use this term to connect with the
animal literature) and desirability. Based on the preferences and
choices of speed-daters, we determined both the strength of pref-
erence and tolerance with respect to height (Table 1), and exam-
ined how these depended on a persons sex and own height. Finally,
we tested whether (3) the conict between the sexes over stated
height preferences affected choice and pair formation.
METHODS
Speed Dating
We used data collected by HurryDate, a rm organizing speed-
date events across North America. The procedure and data have
been described elsewhere (Kurzban & Weeden 2005,2007). In
short, men and women are invited in groups of usually upto 50 and
with an approximately equal sex ratio. Events are stratied by age
(25e35 and 35e45 are typical). During an event, all men interact
with all women for 3 min per date after which both parties
discretely register their interest in the other person by indicating
either Yes or Noon a designated scorecard. These are then stored
by HurryDate and checked for matches: cases in which both male
and female indicated Yes to one another. Subsequently, partici-
pants are informed who their matches are, can view these in-
dividualsonline proles, and send emails to their matches. Our
sample consisted of single men and women paying a fee to attend
the event, indicating that these individuals were genuinely
searching for a mate (and contrasts with many other studies in
which speed-daters received a reward for participating in the form
of, for instance, money or course credits e.g. Eastwick & Finkel
2008;Luo & Zhang 2009;Eastwick et al. 2011). HurryDate col-
lects survey data from their participants including their own height
and a preferred height range (i.e. a minimal and maximal preferred
height).
During a HurryDate event, women usually remain seated while
the men change positions. Given this pattern, womens height may
Table 1
Denitions of preference measures, choice and pairing drawn from the literature and the operational denitions used in a speed-dating context
Variable General (short) denition Operational denition
Preference ranking The ranking of mates based on the trait value
with respect to likelihood of mating
The stated minimal and maximal preferred height
Strength
*
The degree to which deviations from the ideally
preferred trait value are disfavoured
The decrease in the probability of responding Yesto a
speed-dater whose height deviates from the choosers
acceptable height range preference
Responsiveness
*,y
The probability that an individual will respond
positively to any mate, independently of trait value
The probability of responding Yesto any speed-dater
encountered during an event, independently of their height
Tolerance
*
The range of trait values considered acceptable
by a choosing individual
The standard deviation of the mean of those heights to
which a Yesresponse was given
Choice Positive response to sampled mates Whether a given speed-dater gave a Yesresponse
Pair formation The formation of a pair to reproduce Whether a Yesresponse was reciprocated, and a Matchformed
*
Based on Fowler-Finn & Rodríguez (2012a,b).
y
In the speed-dating literature often referred to as selectivityor choosiness.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e102
Please cite this article in press as: Stulp, G., et al., The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation
for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
be more difcult for men to assess than vice versa. However, before
the speed-dating event starts, the speed-daters spend several mi-
nutes interacting while standing, allowing assessments of height.
Moreover, height is also readily assessed from cues while sitting, as
standing height correlates strongly with both sitting height
(r¼0.94) and arm length (r¼0.94; Torres et al. 2003). In addition,
the face can also be used as a cue to height (Re & Perrett 2012). Thus
we consider it safe to assume that men had sufcient opportunity
to assess the height of their female dates.
Although human populations can differ substantially in terms of
height, previous studies using a wide range of methodologies and
various populations (Pawlowski 2003;Fink et al. 2007;Courtiol
et al. 2010a;Re & Perrett 2012;Stulp et al. 2013b) have all yiel-
ded the same consistent mate preferences with respect to height.
Yet, studies from non-Western samples suggest that these height
preferences are not universal (Sear & Marlowe 2009;Sorokowski &
Butovskaya 2012). U.S. citizens are particularly diverse in their
ethnic background, even among those considered Caucasian. The
preferences for height observed in this study should therefore not
be considered as universalpreferences for stature.
When using such an ethnically diverse sample one has to bear in
mind that assortment for ethnic background may lead to assort-
ment for height, as ethnic background and height are correlated.
Yet, because of this correlation, it is very hard to determine the
causal arrow of this relationship. Indeed, a preference for certain
heights will also lead to assortment for ethnic background. An
interesting example of the entanglement between height and
ethnicity comes from patterns of interethnic marriage: marriages
between black men and white women and between Asian women
and white men are more frequent than marriages between black
women and white men and between Asian men and white women,
and these asymmetries are best understood in terms of height
(Belot & Fidrmuc 2010). Nevertheless, in an attempt partially to
account for homogamy with respect to ethnicity, we added a var-
iable to all our logistic mixed models (see below) that coded
whether or not speed-daters were of similar ethnic background.
Including this variable in our analyses did not change our results
qualitatively (i.e. a signicant term for height (or height difference)
never became nonsignicant; these results are not reported here).
Ethical approval was obtained from the Institutional Review
Board at the University of Pennsylvania. Informed consent was not
deemed necessary by this Board, as the participants engaged in
public behaviour. The data obtained could not be traced back to
the individual.
Sample
We included all events in which full information was available
for all choices made by all participants in that event (i.e. full in-
formation on who said Ye sto whom). We excluded all events in
which (1) one of the individuals said Yes to an unknown individ-
ual; (2) when a Matchwas reported even though both individuals
had not said Yes to one another; (3) when Yes was said to an
individual of the same sex (HurryDate sessions are specically
designed for heterosexuals); and (d) when the total number of
participants in the event was lower than 15. This gave us a total of
174 speed-dating events with full information on who said Ye sto
whom in which 5782 individuals (N¼3024 females) made 128 104
choices, resulting in 9072 matches.
Analyses
All analyses were performed separately for the two sexes. We
examined the individual preferences for partner height and how
these related to an individuals height using Pearson correlations,
and ttests were calculated to examine sex differences (using
Cohensdas our measure of effect size). We examined whether
height (or differences in height) affected the chance of either giving
or receiving a Yes response using mixed models with binomial
error distribution, in which individuals of both sexes and event
were included as random effects (i.e. three random effects in total).
The Wald Ztest was used for determining Pvalues for the param-
eter estimates in the mixed models. When examining quadratic
terms of height (or height difference), we always included the
linear term in the statistical model. When the quadratic term was
nonsignicant, we present the statistical details from the model
with only the linear term of height. Height and preferences for
height were reported in inches, so we used this unit of measure-
ment in all analyses, but for the graphs we converted these data to
centimetres. All analyses were performed using the lme4 package
in R, version 2.13.1 (R Development Core Team 2008). All percent-
ages mentioned in the Results are predictions from mixed models
based on the xed effects, which were calculated based on the
formula in Diggle et al. (2002). Condence intervals of optima were
based on 1000 reanalyses of the data using the functions simulate
and retinR.
RESULTS
Overall Sample
An average of 36.97 (SD ¼10.82) individuals participated per
event in the 174 speed-dating events, in which an average of
18.17 5.18 were women and 18.80 6.06 were men. Average
height for men was 179.06 (SD ¼6.87) cm (154 men did not report
height), and 165.20 (SD ¼6.72) cm for women (172 women did not
report height). See Appendix Tables A1 and A2 for more descriptive
statistics.
Stated Preferences for Partner Height
Preference ranking with respect to height was studied using the
minimum and maximum preferred height. Men were more likely
(761 of 2601; 29.26%) than women (167 of 2847; 5.87%) to report a
very low minimally preferred height (4 feet z122 cm;
c
2
1
¼526:28, P<0.0001). In contrast, women were more likely
(844 of 2847; 29.65%) than men (623 out of 2601; 23.95%) to report
a very high maximally preferred height (7 feet z213 cm;
c
2
1
¼22:39, P<0.0001). We considered the very low minimally
(4 feet) and very high maximally (7 feet) preferred heights to
indicate that there was no limit to the height of an acceptable
partner, and therefore excluded these individuals from the
following analysis. The preferred height range (maximally
preferred minus minimally preferred height) was larger in men
than in women (men: mean SD: 24.43 8.43 cm; N¼17 70 ;
women: 18.72 7.08 cm; N¼1996; t
3470.13
¼22.33, P<0.0001,
d¼0.74). Height correlated positively with minimally and maxi-
mally preferred height in both sexes (Fig. 1; men: minimum:
r
1820
¼0.35, P<0.0001; maximum: r
1955
¼0.52, P<0.0001;
women: minimum: r
2651
¼0.40, P<0.0001; maximum:
r
1981
¼0.42, P<0.0001).
Women preferred larger within-pair height differences than
men. Mens minimally preferred height difference was 0.021
(SD ¼6.65) cm (indicating that on average men prefer to be a
minimum of 0.021 cm taller than a woman), whereas women
indicated a signicantly larger minimum height difference of 8.30
(SD ¼6.95) cm (t
4314.21
¼40.96, P<0.0001, d¼1.21). A one-sample
ttest against zero revealed that women (t
2652
¼61.45, P<0.0001,
d¼1.19), but not men (t
1956
¼0.14, P¼0.890, d¼0.003) had on
average a minimal preferred height such that the male was taller
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e10 3
Please cite this article in press as: Stulp, G., et al., The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation
for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
than the female in the couple. With respect to the maximum
preferred height difference, we again found a signicant contrast
between the sexes: on average, men preferred a slightly smaller
maximum within-pair height difference than women (men:
mean SD: 24.67 7.44 cm; women: 27.94 6.54 cm;
t
3637.69
¼14.28, P<0.0001, d¼0.47).
Knowing the distribution of both individual preference rankings
and actual heights enabled us to identify the potential direction and
intensity of intersexual selection acting on height (Fawcett &
Johstone 2003). To this end, we rst calculated how many
opposite-sex individuals would accept a partner of a given height in
the sense that his/her height was between the reported minimum
and maximum preferred height of opposite-sex participants. We
then calculated the total number of individuals that were of
acceptable height for these opposite-sex individuals. In these cal-
culations, we also included individuals with very low minimal or
high maximal preferred heights. The ratio of these values gives the
number of same-sex people that an individual of a given height
would face as competition per opposite-sex person. For instance, a
man of 177.8 cm (70 inches) would fall within the preferred height
range of 2458 women. These 2458 women on average would accept
2101 other men. Thus, a man of 177.8 cm would compete with, on
average, 2101/2458 ¼0.85 men (see Appendix Tables A3 and A4 for
these calculations for all heights). Short men faced the greatest
number of competitors (Fig. 2), whereas men of average height had
the fewest competitors. Very tall men had more competitors than
men of average height, but fewer than short men. Relatively short
and relatively tall women faced more competition than women of
average height, but variation in competition across women was
much lower than across men (Fig. 2). This reects our nding that
the male-preferred height range was, on average, larger than the
female-preferred height range.
Strength of Preference in Relation to Height
To establish the strength of the preferences with respect to
height we analysed the relationship between preferred height
range and choice. Strength was assessed on two levels. First, we
examined the likelihood that an individual said Yes to a speed-
dater who fell within the reported preferred height range of that
individual. For men, the estimated likelihood of saying Yes to a
preferred individual with respect to height was 47.9%, whereas for
a nonpreferred individual this was reduced to 42.8% (logistic
regression: Z¼7.62, P<0.0001). For women, these same values
were 32.2% for a preferred individual versus 25.4% for a non-
preferred individual (Z¼13.64, P<0.0001): a signicantly greater
decrease than seen in men (interaction term: Z¼3.10, P¼0.002).
Second, for those speed-daters who fell outside the preferred
height range of a choosing individual, we assessed the extent to
which the magnitude of the deviation from the preferred height
range inuenced the chance of saying Yes . For men, we found
that the likelihood of saying Yes to an individual who fell 1 inch
(2.54 cm) outside the preferred height range was predicted to be
40.0%, whereas this likelihood decreased by 5.7% when the indi-
vidual fell 5 inches (12.7 cm) outside the preferred range (Z¼3.01,
P¼0.003; Fig. 3). For women, we found that the likelihood of
saying Yesto an individual who fell 1 inch (2.54 cm) outside the
preferred height range was predicted to be 24.8%, while 5 inches
decreased it by 8.0% (Z¼7.87, P<0.0001). A signicant interaction
was found between sex and the deviation from the preferred
height range (Z¼2.41, P¼0.016), indicating that preference
strength was stronger in women than men. Thus, both analyses
showed that women had a stronger preference than men, and that
the link between preference and choice was stronger in women
than in men.
Examining the strength of preference separately towards
heights above and below the preferred height range, we found that
women disfavoured heights that were shorter than preferred more
than those taller than preferred (interaction term: Z¼3.02,
P¼0.003; Fig. 3). The reverse was true for men: men tended to
disfavour women who were taller than preferred more than
women shorter than preferred (interaction term: Z¼1.6 6,
P¼0.097). This pattern was signicantly different between the
sexes (interaction term: Z¼3.33, P¼0.001).
140
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
Men
Women
150 160 170
Hei
g
ht (cm)
180 190 200 210
Average number of competitors
Figure 2. The number of competitors in the speed-date population for men and
women in relation to their height. High values indicate that the number of individuals
of a given height is high relative to the number of opposite-sex individuals for whom
that height falls within the acceptable height range. See text and Tables A3 and A4 for
further information.
150 160 170 180 190 200
200
190
180
170
160
150
Hei
g
ht (cm)
Preferred height (cm)
Women
Men
Figure 1. Minimum and maximum preferred height (means SE) in relation to sub-
ject height for men (lled triangles) and women (open triangles). The lines reect the
midpoint between the minimally and maximally preferred height. For men, bins below
65 inches and above 75 inches, and for women bins below 60 inches and above
70 inches, were collapsed.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e104
Please cite this article in press as: Stulp, G., et al., The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation
for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
Tolerance in Relation to Height
The standard deviation of heights to which a Yesresponse was
given (including only those individuals that responded with Yes
more than once) was on average 2.45 (0.73) for men and
2.35 (1.00) for women, a small but signicant difference
(t
5203
¼5.24, P<0.0001, d¼0.15). This difference in tolerance was
not a consequence of different standard deviations of height for men
and women (Levenes test for equality of variances: F¼0.087,
P¼0.768). This reinforces the results given above on strength of
preferences,with women displaying a signicanttendency to choose
a narrower range of mates during speed dating than men. This
measure of tolerance also correlated weakly but signicantly with
the reported preferred height range in men (Spearman correlation:
r
S
¼0.070, N¼1691, P¼0.004) and women (Spearman correlation:
r
S
¼0.064, N¼1690, P¼0.009), indicating that individuals who
reported a narrower preferred height range also showed less vari-
ability with respect to which heights were given a Yesresponse.
Responsiveness, Desirability and Pair Formation in Relation to
Height
Overall, we found that, for both men and women, those who
reported a wider preferred height range were also more responsive
in general (men: Z¼4.73, P<0.0001; women: Z¼8.63,
P<0.0001). Furthermore, men were more responsive than
women: on average, they said Yes to 47.4% of women, whereas for
women this value was substantially lower at 30.2% (Z¼20.85,
P<0.0001).
Taller men were less responsive, but more likely to receive a Yes
response from women (which we refer to as desirability). Both
relationships were curvilinear, with maximum responsiveness at
7.2 cm above average height (95% condence interval, CI ¼3.4e
18.9), and maximum desirability at 21.3 cm (95% CI ¼12.9e64.0)
above average height (Table 2,Fig. 4a, b). The desirability effect was
stronger than the responsiveness effect and hence taller men were
more likely to form a pair, that is, were more likely to end up with a
match (Table 2,Fig. 4c).
Female height was not signicantly related to either respon-
siveness or pair formation (Table 2,Fig. 4a, c). However, very short
and very tall women were slightly less desirable, as indicated by a
signicant quadratic effect of female height on the chance of
receiving a Yesresponse (Table 2,Fig. 4b). The most frequently
chosen female height was predicted to lie 0.38 cm (95% CI ¼5.1e
6.4) above average height although, from the graph, it is clear that
particularly very short and very tall women were least frequently
chosen, whereas women in the intermediate height range had
similar likelihoods of receiving a Yes response. Thus, very short
and very tall women were chosen less often than those of more
intermediate heights.
Mutual Mate Choice and Pair Formation
As partner preferences are dependent on ones own height
(Fig. 1), relative height difference may be more informative with
respect to the chance of giving a Yes response than assessment of
potential partner height alone because it integrates the height of
both participants. We found curvilinear effects for both men and
women on the chance of giving a Yes response with respect to
partner height differences (male minus female height; Table 3,
Fig. 5). For men, a Yes response was most likely when the woman
was 7.1 cm (95% CI ¼1. 0e12.2) shorter than themselves, signi-
cantly lower than the average height difference of 13.9 cm between
men and women in our sample. Women, in contrast, were most
Table 2
The effect of male and female height (in inches; mean-centered) on the likelihood of giving a Yes response, receiving a Yes response, and having a match during speed dating
Likelihood of giving a Yesresponse Likelihood of receiving a Yesresponse Likelihood of match
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Intercept 0.220.052
(<0.0001)
1.230.043
(<0.0001)
1.180.046
(<0.0001)
0.120.053 (0.026) 2.270.034
(<0.0001)
2.270.034
(<0.0001)
Height 0.0500.012
(<0.0001)
0.000490.010
(0.962)
0.120.010
(<0.0001)
0.00210.010 (0.834) 0.0470.0084
(<0.0001)
0.00410.0083
(0.619)
Height
2
0.00880.0027
(0.001)
*
0.00710.0024
(0.003)
0.00700.0030 (0.020)
**
Random effects
y
Choosing
individual ID
2.231.49 1.661.29 1.761.33 2.311.52 0.790.89 0.810.90
Chosen
individual ID
1.631.28 1.581.26 1.481.21 1.611.27 0.850.92 0.830.91
Event ID 0.130.36 0.0860.29 0.0810.28 0.130.36 0.0560.24 0.0540.23
Table entries show binomial logistic mixed-model parameter estimates SE and the associated Pvalue (in parentheses).
*
The squared term of height was nonsignicant (P>0.159). We present the estimates from the model without this term.
y
Parameter estimate for variance components SD.
–15 –10 –5 0 5 10 15
Deviation from
p
referred hei
g
ht ran
g
e (cm)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Likelihood of giving ‘Yes’ response (%)
Shorter than preferred Taller than preferred
By men
By women
Figure 3. The strength of the height preference: the likelihood of giving a Ye s
response with increased deviation from the preferred height range for men and
women (mean SE). Bins below 7 inches and above 7 inches were collapsed. The
likelihood of giving a Yes response when the height fell within the height range is
plotted for comparison.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e10 5
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for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
likely to give a Yes response when the man was 25.1 cm taller (95%
CI ¼22.1e28.8). This height difference was signicantly larger than
the average height difference between men and women and also
substantially larger than the male optimum.
We then calculated the height difference with the highest
likelihood of a match (i.e. mutual score of Yes). We found a
maximum likelihood of a match at 19.2 cm (95% CI ¼16.2e22.8)
which falls in between the most chosen value for both men (7.1 cm)
and women (25.1 cm), and which was also signicantly greater
than the average height difference (Table 3,Fig. 5). When we
multiply the curve of the men giving a Yesresponse (with respect
to the height differences) with that of the female curve, we obtain a
curve indicating the chance of a match when the chance of a Yes
being reciprocated is independent (i.e. the likelihood of having a
Yes response reciprocated is equal to that nonreciprocated). This
estimated curve was very similar to the observed height distribu-
tion of the matches (Fig. 5), suggesting that men and women were
not more likely to give a Ye sresponse to an individual who gave
them a Yes response in turn; thus there is no evidence to suggest
that a given couple feels a clickwith one another.
Resulting Mating Patterns with Respect to Height
We correlated the height of an individual with the average
height of all matches of that individual (Fig. 6). Both male
(r
2204
¼0.128, P<0.0001) and female (r
2379
¼0.105, P<0.0001)
height correlated positively with this average height, providing
some indication of assortative mating: taller individuals tended to
be matched with taller individuals in both sexes, but men of
average height were more likely to be matched with shorter fe-
males (Fig. 6). Thus, assortative mating for height was tempered by
female choice for men much taller themselves, with the result that
men of average height, rather than shorter men, were more likely to
be matched with shorter women.
DISCUSSION
Studies of mate choice are generally restricted to the assessment
of preferences, thereby neglecting the subsequent processes that
lead to pair formation. Here, departing from previous work, we
addressed simultaneously how preferences for partner height
translated into actual choice, and how choice then translated into
pairing. We found that nonpreferred potential partners with
respect to height still had a high (albeit reduced) chance of being
chosen (42.8% and 25.4% for men and women, respectively). This is
consistent with previous studies, which show that reported partner
preferences are not strong predictors of choice during speed dating
(Kurzban & Weeden 2007;Todd et al. 2007;Eastwick & Finkel
2008;Eastwick et al. 2011).
In addition to the reasons put forward in the Introduction to
account for why preferences are not always expected to predict
choice, humans may not be able express their own preferences
accurately, or they may feel compelled to give socially desirable
answers (Todd et al. 2007;Eastwick et al. 2011). Additionally, and
perhaps most crucially, the setting in which preferences are
established may not conform to the situation in which preferences
are actually expressed. It is worth bearing in mind, therefore, that
other psychological processes besides those relating strictly to
mating decisions may explain some of the deviation of choice from
preference.
155 160 165 170 175 180 185 190
155 160 165 170 175 180 185 190
155 160 165 170 175 180 185 190
By men
For men
For women
For men
For women
Hei
g
ht (cm)
By women
10
20
30
40
50
60 (a)
(b)
(c)
10
20
30
40
50
60
Likelihood of giving ‘Yes’ response (%)Likelihood of receiving ‘Yes’ response (%)Likelihood of match (%)
20
18
16
14
12
10
8
Figure 4. The effect of male and female height on (a) the likelihood of giving a Ye s
response, (b) the likelihood of receiving a Yes response, and (c) the likelihood of a
match (all mean SE). For men, bins below 65 inches and above 75 inches, and for
women bins below 60 inches and above 70 inches, were collapsed.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e106
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for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
Despite the imperfect mapping of preferences onto choice, we
found that womens preferences were more strongly related to
subsequent choice than those of men. Women reported a narrower
preferred height range than men, and they were also less likely to
choose men that fell outside this range (i.e. women had a higher
strength of preference). Similarly, there was less variation in the
heights chosen by women compared to men (i.e. women also had a
lower tolerance). Finally, women were less responsive overall than
men, mirroring ndings from previous research (e.g. Kurzban &
Weeden 2005;Todd et al. 2007;Eastwick & Finkel 2008;Lenton
& Francesconi 2011), but there was no inuence of a womans
own height on her responsiveness (in line with Kurzban & Weeden
2005). Female height did, however, inuence their desirability:
women of average height were most desired during speed dating.
Furthermore, based on the preferences for height expressed by men
and the actual height distribution of women, it was clear that
women of average height also had the fewest rivals to compete
with compared to shorter and taller women. These effects were
generally small, however, and did not translate into actual success,
as female height was unrelated to the chance of a match.
A contrasting pattern of results was obtained for men, where an
individuals own height had a signicant inuence on his respon-
siveness: specically, taller men were less responsive than shorter
men. The lower responsiveness displayed by taller men can be
partly explained by their increased desirability, as taller men were
most often given a Yesresponse by women and had to compete
with fewer rivals than shorter men. Thus, the increased popularity
of, and reduced competition for, taller men compared to shorter
men may explain their decreased responsiveness during speed
dating. Despite being less responsive, taller man were most likely to
end up with a match. Taken together, these results demonstrate
that height is considered more important by women as a mate
choice characteristic, and that mensmating successis therefore
more dependent on height than the mating success of women. Thus
female mate choice is a likely contributor to the evolution of human
sexual size dimorphism.
Stated preferences for height differences also revealed a conict
between the sexes. In general, women preferred their partner to be
much taller, whereas men preferred their partner to be only slightly
shorter. These stated preferences were also reected in choice: men
were most likely to choose only small partner height differences,
including those height differences in which the woman was taller
than the choosing men. Women, in contrast, were most likely to
choose much larger partner height differences, and least likely to
choose small partner height differences, particularly those that
would result in the man being shorter. Further evidence that
women disfavour men shorter than themselves is also shown by
the differences in their strength of preference: women strongly
disfavoured men who were shorter, but not those who were taller,
than their preferred height range (Fig. 3). These converging lines of
Table 3
The effect of the difference in height (male minus female height; in inches) on the likelihood of giving a Yesresponse by men and women, and the likelihood of a match
Likelihood of giving a Yesresponse Likelihood of match
Men Women
Intercept 0.110.065 (0.081) 1.670.061 (<0.0001) 2.470.051 (<0.0001)
Height difference 0.0210.011 (0.052) 0.140.011 (<0.0001) 0.0850.011 (<0.0001)
Height difference
2
0.00380.0007 (<0.0001) 0.00720.0008 (<0.0001) 0.00570.0008 (<0.0001)
Random effects
*
Choosing individual ID 2.291.51 1.711.31 0.830.91
Chosen individual ID 1.631.27 1.501.22 0.810.90
Event ID 0.130.35 0.0890.30 0.0600.25
Table entries show binomial logistic mixed model parameter estimates (SE) and the associated Pvalue (in parentheses).
*
Parameter estimate for variance components (SD).
–20 –10 0 10 20 30 40 50
Hei
g
ht difference (cm)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
Men giving ‘Yes’ response
Women giving ‘Yes’ response
Both giving ‘Yes’ response
Likelihood (%)
Figure 5. Height differences (male minus female height), the likelihood of giving a
Yes response by men and women and the likelihood of a match (all mean SE). Bins
below 6 inches and above 17 inches were collapsed. The broken line represents the
multiplication of the curves representing the likelihood of giving a Yes response for
both men and women.
150
178
179
180
181
162
163
164
165
166
167 Men
Women
160
Hei
g
ht (cm)
Average height of matches (cm)
170 180 190
(a)
(b)
Figure 6. The average height SE of the individuals with whom an individual of a
given height is paired for (a) men and (b) women. For every individual we calculated
the average height of all individuals with which they had a match (see text). The
horizontal line represents the average height of the opposite sex.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e10 7
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for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
evidence strongly suggest that the male-taller norm observed in
actual couples (i.e. males are more often taller than their partner
when compared to random mating; Gillis & Avis 1980) is driven by
women rather than by men.
The process of mate choice and pair formation during speed
dating resulted in assortative mating for height, but the magnitude
of assortment in the resulting matches is lower than that observed
among actual couples (Spuhler 1982;Stulp et al. 2011,2013a). A
possible explanation for a lower level of assortment is that, because
womens choices were so strongly directed towards men much taller
than themselves, it was men of average height, rather than shorter
men, who were most likely to be paired with shorter women (Fig. 6).
Although shorter men were much less likely to nd a match during
speed-dating events (Fig. 4c), they may nevertheless succeed in
nding a partner outside of this more restricted context because the
availability of average height and taller men in a population is,
obviously, nite. Once more preferred men are removed from the
mating pool, some women may be forced to compromise with
respect to partner height, and pair up with shorter men. Thus,
because shorter men are potentially still successful at nding a
partner, and because such men are more likely to be paired with
shorter women than with tall women (because of preferences in
both sexes), the observed magnitude of assortment in actual couples
will be higher than that seen in a speed-dating context.
Our most notable nding, however, concerns the manner in
which the conict over partner height difference extended to actual
pair formation. While men preferentially chose partners with a
height difference that fell signicantly below the average height
difference between men and women, women chose partners with
height differences that were signicantly above this average dif-
ference (Fig. 5). This conict in choice inevitably resulted in pairs in
which the height difference between partners was suboptimal for
both sexes, even though all parties were expressing a free choice
and rivals did not prevent this choice. Thus, our study shows how
mutual mate choice for preferred partners can lead to suboptimal
pair formation, highlighting the value of following the mate choice
process beyond the establishment of preferences through to pair
formation. Our study also illustrates the value of speed dating as a
model system, as it shows how human mate choice processes can be
studied in a manner directly comparable to those of other species.
Acknowledgments
We thank Louise Barrett for her many helpful comments on the
manuscript. We thank HurryDate for generously providing the data,
Jason Weeden for help with the data, and Alexandre Courtiol for
statistical advice. We also thank two anonymous referees for their
comments which improved the manuscript.
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Appendix
Table A1
Descriptive statistics of the events (N¼174 )
MeanSD Minimum Maximum
No. of persons in event 36.7910.82 15 65
No. of men in event 18.806.06 6 35
No. of women in event 18.175.18 7 30
Sex ratio
*
0.510.050 0.35 0.63
The correlation between the number of men and women participating in the event
was r¼0.852, P<0.0001.
*
No. of men in event divided by no. of persons in event.
Table A2
Descriptive statistics of the speed-daters
NMeanSD Minimum Maximum
Female 3024
Age 3019 31.835.16 20 53
Height
*
2852 165.206.72 144.78 187.96
Ethnicity 3024
Caucasian 2305
Asian 135
African 107
Hispanic 125
Other 83
Unknown 269
Male 2758
Age 2755 34.416.06 21 68
Height 2604 179.066.87 142.24 213.36
Ethnicity 2758
Caucasian 2109
Asian 138
African 86
Hispanic 98
Other 102
Unknown 225
*
Height was originally reported in inches.
Table A3
Calculating the average number of competitors per male height (see Fig. 2)
Male
height
*
Frequency No. of women would
accept height
y
Average no. of men
accepted by these
women
z
Considered too
short by no. of
women
Considered too tall
by no. of women
Average no. of
competitors
x
142.24 1 (0.04) 171 (6.01) 2547 (97.81) 2676 (93.99) 0 (0) 14.89
154.94 1 (0.04) 194 (6.81) 2547 (97.81) 2653 (93.19) 0 (0) 13.12
157.48 4 (0.15) 207 (7.27) 2542 (97.61) 2640 (92.73) 0 (0) 12.27
160.02 6 (0.23) 235 (8.25) 2533 (97.29) 2612 (91.75) 0 (0) 10.78
162.56 11 (0.42) 298 (10.47) 2508 (96.30) 2549 (89.53) 0 (0) 8.41
165.1 42 (1.61) 455 (15.98) 2490 (95.62) 2392 (84.02) 0 (0) 5.47
167.64 107 (4.11) 685 (24.06) 2463 (94.57) 2162 (75.94) 0 (0) 3.59
170.18 175 (6.72) 1014 (35.62) 2412 (92.64) 1833 (64.38) 0 (0) 2.38
172.72 258 (9.91) 1486 (52.2) 2334 (89.61) 1360 (47.77) 1 (0.04) 1.57
175.26 312 (11.98) 1891 (66.42) 2244 (86.18) 954 (33.51) 2 (0.07) 1.19
177.8 397 (15.25) 2458 (86.34) 2102 (80.72) 385 (13.52) 4 (0.14) 0.85
180.34 351 (13.48) 2689 (94.45) 2029 (77.92) 150 (5.27) 8 (0.28) 0.75
182.88 389 (14.94) 2803 (98.45) 1980 (76.02) 18 (0.63) 26 (0.91) 0.71
185.42 209 (8.03) 2676 (93.99) 1982 (76.11) 4 (0.14) 167 (5.87) 0.74
187.96 174 (6.68) 2590 (90.97) 1983 (76.16) 0 (0) 257 (9.03) 0.77
190.5 80 (3.07) 2243 (78.78) 1994 (76.57) 0 (0) 604 (21.22) 0.89
193.04 53 (2.04) 1929 (67.76) 2001 (76.85) 0 (0) 918 (32.24) 1.04
195.58 17 (0.65) 1536 (53.95) 2025 (77.76) 0 (0) 1311 (46.05) 1.32
198.12 10 (0.38) 1185 (41.62) 2063 (79.21) 0 (0) 1662 (58.38) 1.74
200.66 4 (0.15) 1016 (35.69) 2085 (80.06) 0 (0) 1831 (64.31) 2.05
203.2 1 (0.04) 959 (33.68) 2096 (80.50) 0 (0) 1888 (66.32) 2.18
213.36 2 (0.08) 844 (29.65) 2110 (81.03) 0 (0) 2003 (70.35) 2.50
Numbers in parentheses are percentages.
*
Height in cm (originally reported in inches).
y
The number of women who included that particular male height in their preferred height range.
z
The average number of men liked by all the women who included that particular male height in their preferred height range.
x
The average number of competitors was a function of how many women would accept a man of a given height and the average number of men that were accepted by these
women: that is, the average number of other men accepted by the women (average number preferred minus 1) divided by the number of women who would accept them.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e10 9
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for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
Table A4
Calculating the average number of competitors per female height (see Fig. 2)
Female
height
*
Frequency No. of men would
accept
y
Average no. of women
accepted by these men
z
Considered too short
by no. of men
Considered too tall
by no. of men
Average no. of
competitors
x
144.78 1 (0.04) 863 (33.18) 2760 (96.77) 1738 (66.82) 0 (0) 3.20
147.32 9 (0.32) 1000 (38.45) 2736 (95.92) 1601 (61.55) 0 (0) 2.73
149.86 17 (0.6) 1070 (41.14) 2725 (95.53) 1531 (58.86) 0 (0) 2.55
152.4 85 (2.98) 1740 (66.9) 2706 (94.89) 861 (33.1) 0 (0) 1.55
154.94 124 (4.35) 1887 (72.55) 2695 (94.49) 714 (27.45) 0 (0) 1.43
157.48 277 (9.71) 2181 (83.85) 2666 (93.47) 420 (16.15) 0 (0) 1.22
160.02 304 (10.66) 2303 (88.54) 2644 (92.72) 297 (11.42) 1 (0.04) 1.15
162.56 455 (15.95) 2446 (94.04) 2606 (91.37) 151 (5.81) 4 (0.15) 1.06
165.1 363 (12.73) 2532 (97.35) 2570 (90.1) 58 (2.23) 11 (0.42) 1.01
167.64 380 (13.32) 2532 (97.35) 2564 (89.9) 21 (0.81) 48 (1.85) 1.01
170.18 305 (10.69) 2468 (94.89) 2574 (90.26) 8 (0.31) 125 (4.81) 1.04
172.72 219 (7.68) 2329 (89.54) 2592 (90.88) 3 (0.12) 269 (10.34) 1.11
175.26 169 (5.93) 2099 (80.7) 2614 (91.64) 1 (0.04) 501 (19.26) 1.24
177.8 100 (3.51) 1862 (71.59) 2628 (92.13) 0 (0) 739 (28.41) 1.41
180.34 32 (1.12) 1537 (59.09) 2641 (92.61) 0 (0) 1064 (40.91) 1.72
182.88 10 (0.35) 1356 (52.13) 2660 (93.27) 0 (0) 1245 (47.87) 1.96
185.42 1 (0.04) 949 (36.49) 2682 (94.03) 0 (0) 1652 (63.51) 2.82
187.96 1 (0.04) 859 (33.03) 2704 (94.82) 0 (0) 1742 (66.97) 3.15
Numbers in parentheses are percentages.
*
Height in cm (originally reported in inches).
y
The number of men who included that particular female height in their preferred height range.
z
The average number of women liked by all the men who included that particular female height in their preferred height range.
x
The average number of competitors was a function of how many men would accept a woman of a given height and the average number of women that were accepted by
these men, that is, the average number of other women accepted by the men (average number preferred minus 1) divided by the number of men who would accept them.
G. Stulp et al. / Animal Behaviour xxx (2013) 1e1010
Please cite this article in press as: Stulp, G., et al., The height of choosiness: mutual mate choice for stature results in suboptimal pair formation
for both sexes, Animal Behaviour (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.03.038
... For example, a study on speeddating reported that women were choosier than men about potential partners' height, and were most likely to choose men 25 cm taller than themselves. Men, however, were most likely to choose women only 7 cm shorter than themselves (Stulp et al., 2013). Taller men were choosier than shorter men yet still had a higher likelihood of ending up with a match than shorter men; this is because taller men were more frequently given a 'Yes' response by women and had to compete with fewer rivals than shorter men (Stulp et al., 2013). ...
... Men, however, were most likely to choose women only 7 cm shorter than themselves (Stulp et al., 2013). Taller men were choosier than shorter men yet still had a higher likelihood of ending up with a match than shorter men; this is because taller men were more frequently given a 'Yes' response by women and had to compete with fewer rivals than shorter men (Stulp et al., 2013). Women had a narrower preferred height range than men, and women were less likely than men to choose individuals who fell outside of this preference range. ...
... Women had a narrower preferred height range than men, and women were less likely than men to choose individuals who fell outside of this preference range. Women therefore had a higher strength of preference for male height than vice versa (Stulp et al., 2013). Taller-than-average men have more attractive mates, are more likely to be married, and are favoured as sperm donors (reviewed in Sugiyama, 2015). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The dominant evolutionary theory of sexual attraction posits that attraction serves as a psychological mechanism for identifying healthy, fertile, and appropriate mates. According to this theory, humans and animals display cues that reflect their mate quality and are perceived as attractive by potential mates. There is evidence for such valid cues in human faces, bodies, and in non-bodily traits, which include adornments and items that signal provisioning ability, creativity, artistic skills, or conspicuous consumption. In this chapter, we discuss the evidence for the existence of these facial, bodily, and non-bodily cues, and for their role in communicating aspects of partner quality, including health, fertility, developmental stability, genetic quality, and potential for parental investment. We further discuss sex differences in the kinds of physical cues that men and women rely on in mate choice. We conclude by noting how central and evolutionarily important physical cues are even in contemporary sexual selection, and how the importance of physical cues of partner quality manifests in evolutionarily novel inventions such as physical self-enhancements, social media, and online dating.
... This phenomenon is referred to as the "male-taller norm" (Beigel, 1954;Gillis and Avis, 1980). This effect seems to be driven by women, who prefer tall men much more than men prefer short women (Stulp et al., 2013a(Stulp et al., , 2013b(Stulp et al., , 2013c(Stulp et al., , 2013d. Some studies postulate that the male-taller norm evolved in ancient times, when men's physical strength and violence determined resource allocation, mate access, and thus reproductive success (Murray and Schmitz, 2011;Puts, 2010;Puts et al., 2015;Salska et al., 2008). ...
... Dominance, competitiveness, and masculinity could help a man fulfill his responsibilities in ancient times. These traits can be signaled by the man's physicality: Studies have shown that height is positively associated with masculinity, dominance, authority, prestige, and leadership (Blaker et al., 2013;Knapen et al., 2019;Murray and Schmitz, 2011;Stulp et al., 2012Stulp et al., , 2013aStulp et al., , 2013bStulp et al., , 2013cStulp et al., , 2013d. Furthermore, recent figures show that tall men, on average, benefit from relatively high income, social status, and educational attainment (Böckerman et al., 2017;Case and Paxson, 2008;Cinnirella et al., 2011;Deaton and Arora, 2009;Yamamura et al., 2015). ...
... By contrast, men who place importance on traditional gender-role norms cannot accept female partners who they perceive as too tall or too short, as they have a narrow range of acceptable heights for their female partners. This suggests that men who think gender roles are important are more likely to comply with not only the male-taller norm but also the male-nottoo-tall norm, which holds that people prefer the height difference between a husband and wife to be within a certain positive range (Stulp et al., 2013a(Stulp et al., , 2013b(Stulp et al., , 2013c(Stulp et al., , 2013d. ...
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This study used Taiwan’s Panel Study of Family Dynamics (PSFD) 2016 data to investigate the relationship between gender-role ideology and height preference in mate selection, finding that women prefer a tall partner much more than men prefer a short partner. However, when traditional gender norms prevail, men with a high levels of adherence to gender-role ideology cannot accept a female partner who is either too tall or too short. Men’s height preferences are more responsive to social norms than women’s, while women’s height preferences are more sensitive to their own demographic characteristics than men’s. The tallest and shortest female partners accepted by men with strong traditional gender-role ideology are 2.37 cm shorter and 2.21 cm taller, respectively, than men who disagree with gender norms. In marriage, gender-role ideology is not relevant to partner height, regardless of sex.
... First, as women are shorter than men are, given the importance of having a kind of natural authority and physical strength as a police officer when dealing with the public, in the selection and promotion, more-though not necessarily conscious-attention may be paid to women's height. Second, although there is evidence that women of medium height may feel they are most popular with the opposite sex (Stulp et al., 2013c), the present research fits with the evidence that taller women tend to be more career oriented (Deady & Smith, 2006; see also Buunk et al., 2019). Given the emphasis on affirmative Fig. 2 Police rank and height for men and women. ...
... However, as noted in the "Method," there is considerable evidence for a very high correlation between self-reported and actual height (Ekström et al., 2015;Lasalle et al., 2013). Moreover, there is evidence that actual height is in a similar way associated with for example status and attractiveness as self-reported height (e.g., Stulp et al., 2013c). A third potential limitation of the present findings is that these may be particularly relevant for organizations where physical dominance is an advantage, including not only the police but also for example fire brigades, the armed forces, or rescue services. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study among 725 male and 247 female police officers from The Netherlands examined the association between self-reported height and occupational rank from the perspective of sexual selection. Male and female police officers were taller than the average population. A larger percentage of women than of men was found in the lowest ranks, but in the leadership positions, there was a similar percentage of women as of men. Overall, but especially among women, height was linearly associated with occupational rank: the taller one was, the higher one’s rank. These effects were independent of educational level and age. The implications for evolutionary theorizing from the perspective of sexual selection on the effect of tallness on status and dominance among women are discussed.
... Generally speaking, straight men tend to prefer women who are shorter than themselves and straight women tend to prefer men who are taller than themselves (Stulp et al., 2013). This mate preference is so well known that growth stunting hormones were given to young women for decades to prevent them from becoming too tall to attract men when they became adults (Pyett et al., 2005). ...
... Future research may find it worthwhile to consider whether bisexual women in the WNBA are more likely to date women than bisexual women who are not in the WNBA, given men's preference for a shorter lover (Stulp et al., 2013). It may be the case that bisexual women, like straight women, also have a preference for a taller lover when they are courting a male, but do not care about height when courting a female. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The success of Title IX and the LGBTQ rights movement is embodied in the sexual orientation diversity and inclusiveness of the WNBA. This makes the WNBA one of the only sports where a comparison of athletic performance based on sexual orientation is possible. Sex differences in athletic performance emerge during puberty, due in part to increases in circulating testosterone in men. Research has also found that lesbians and bisexual women have more testosterone than straight women. Thus, it is possible that there are differences in women’s athletic performance based on sexual orientation. In this study, we used publicly available information to determine the sexual orientation of current WNBA players and compared performance statistics based on sexuality. Results showed that straight guards and forwards weighed more than lesbians, whereas the reverse was true for centers. Lesbian guards are more accurate shooters with a significantly higher field goal percentage than straight guards, and lesbian forwards recorded marginally more steals and assists than straight forwards. Straight females committed more personal fouls than lesbians, especially if they had a female coach in college (regardless of the sex of their WNBA coach). Aside from these findings, overall performance was similar regardless of athletes’ sexual orientation. We argue that no athlete should be discounted based on sexual orientation, whether straight athletes in women’s sports or gay athletes (like Michael Sam) in men’s sports.
... First, these results comport with the "good genes hypothesis," which posits that individuals choose mates with an allele that increases fitness independent of the architecture of the remaining genome (Neff and Pitcher, 2005;Mays and Hill, 2004;Roberts and Little, 2008;Andersson and Simmons, 2006;Jones and Ratterman, 2009). In monogamous species with mutual mate choice (de Waal and Gavrilets, 2013;Lukas and Clutton-Brock, 2013;Hooper and Miller, 2008;Stulp et al., 2013;Baldauf et al., 2009;Lovejoy, 2009), assortative mating can result because those with the higher fitness allele choose to mate with one another, leaving those without the allele to similarly assort with their own type (Neff and Pitcher, 2005;Stulp et al., 2013;Baldauf et al., 2009). In this scenario, we would expect to find a relationship between assortative mating and positive selection at the allelic level, which can increase the frequency of advantageous alleles more rapidly, as shown in the simulations (Fig. 3d). ...
... First, these results comport with the "good genes hypothesis," which posits that individuals choose mates with an allele that increases fitness independent of the architecture of the remaining genome (Neff and Pitcher, 2005;Mays and Hill, 2004;Roberts and Little, 2008;Andersson and Simmons, 2006;Jones and Ratterman, 2009). In monogamous species with mutual mate choice (de Waal and Gavrilets, 2013;Lukas and Clutton-Brock, 2013;Hooper and Miller, 2008;Stulp et al., 2013;Baldauf et al., 2009;Lovejoy, 2009), assortative mating can result because those with the higher fitness allele choose to mate with one another, leaving those without the allele to similarly assort with their own type (Neff and Pitcher, 2005;Stulp et al., 2013;Baldauf et al., 2009). In this scenario, we would expect to find a relationship between assortative mating and positive selection at the allelic level, which can increase the frequency of advantageous alleles more rapidly, as shown in the simulations (Fig. 3d). ...
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Genetic correlation between mates at specific loci can greatly alter the evolutionary trajectory of a species. Genetic assortative mating has been documented in humans, but its existence beyond population stratification (shared ancestry) has been a matter of controversy. Here, we develop a method to measure assortative mating across the genome at 1,044,854 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), controlling for population stratification and cohort-specific cryptic relatedness. Using data on 1,683 human couples from two data sources, we find evidence for both assortative and disassortative mating at specific, discernible loci throughout the entire genome. Then, using the composite of multiple signals (CMS) score, we also show that the group of SNPs exhibiting the most assortativity has been under stronger recent positive selection. Simulations using realistic inputs confirm that assortative mating might indeed affect changes in allele frequency over time. These results suggest that genetic assortative mating may be speeding up evolution in humans.
... In one study, male speed daters with wider faces, a cue to social dominance and aggressiveness (Geniole, Denson, Dixson, Carré, & McCormick, 2015), were preferred as short-term mates (Valentine, Li, Penke, & Perrett, 2014). In other speed-dating studies, height was found attractive in men only (Asendorpf, Penke, & Back, 2011), in both sexes (Stulp, Buunk, Kurzban, & Verhulst, 2013), or in neither sex (Luo & Zhang, 2009). Additionally, there is some evidence that lower weight (Luo & Zhang, 2009) and lower BMI (Asendorpf et al., 2011) are attractive in women only. ...
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While hundreds of studies have investigated the indices that make up attractive body shapes, these studies were based on preferences measured in the laboratory using pictorial stimuli. Whether these preferences translate into real-time, face-to-face evaluations of potential partners is unclear. Here, 539 (275 female) participants in 75 laboratory-based sessions had their body dimensions measured before engaging in round-robin speed dates. After each date, they rated each other’s body, face, personality, and overall attractiveness and noted whether they would go on a date with the partner. Women with smaller waists and lower waist-to-hip ratios were found most attractive, and men with broader shoulders and higher shoulder-to-waist (or hips) ratios were found most attractive. Taller individuals were preferred by both sexes. Our results show that body dimensions associated with greater health, reproductive value (in women), and formidability (in men) influence face-to-face evaluations of attractiveness, consistent with a role of intersexual selection in shaping human bodies.
... Darwin (1871) popularized two primary means of competition over mating opportunities: the tendency for males to compete with other males using physical aggression-what is often called male-male competition or contest competition-as well as competition to display traits attractive to females, known as female choice or mate choice (Cronin, 1991). In humans, both sexes appear to compete in both ways in some societies: qualitative evidence suggests that women compete aggressively over men (Burbank, 1987;Campbell, 1986;Lepowsky, 1994;but see Ainsworth & Maner, 2012) and vice versa (Benson & Archer, 2002;Chagnon, 1988;Wilson & Daly, 1985), but also that men and women compete to display traits attractive to the opposite sex (Buss & Dedden, 1990;Walters & Crawford, 1994) and that they both exhibit choosiness (Kenrick, Sadalla, Groth, & Trost, 1990;Stulp, Buunk, Kurzban, & Verhulst, 2013;Todd, Penke, Fasolo, & Lenton, 2007). Next, I review what we know about how imbalances in the sex ratio relate to the specific tactics women use in mate competition. ...
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a b s t r a c t Physical characteristics, such as height, play an important role in human mate preferences. Satisfaction with one's own height and one's partner height seem likely to be related to these preferences. Using a student sample (N = 650), we show that women are not only more selective, but also more consistent, than men, in their partner height preferences. Women prefer, on average, a larger height difference between themselves and their partner (i.e. males being much taller than themselves) than men do. This effect is even more pronounced when examining satisfaction with actual partner height: women are most satisfied when their partner was 21 cm taller, whereas men are most satisfied when they were 8 cm taller than their partner. Next, using data from our sample and that of a previously published study (N = 52,677), we show that for men, height is more important to the expression of satisfaction with one's own height than it is for women. Furthermore, slightly above average height women and tall men are most satisfied with their heights. We conclude that satisfaction with one's own height is at least partly a consequence of the height preference of the opposite sex and satisfaction with one's partner height.