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Playing Smart: The Mating Game and Mating Intelligence



Current work investigated the extent to which mating intelligence was related to one’s own mate value as well as the value of one’s mate. We hypothesized that (1) mating intelligence is positively correlated with measures of self-perceived mate value, (2) greater mating intelligence is associated with greater partner mate value, (3) greater mating intelligence is associated with less mate settling, and according to Parental Investment Theory, females are predicted to have significantly higher mean mate value than males. Along with the adoption of the Mate Value Inventory and Mating Intelligence Scale, a method was developed to assess a more objective rating of self and partner’s physical attractiveness. A large sample (N > 500) was obtained for this study via internet survey. As predicted, mating intelligence appeared to be a valid predictor of one’s own value in the mating market, as well as the quality of mates that one can attract. High mating intelligence also corresponded to lower mate value discrepancy within a mateship. That is, high MI tended to go with a relatively small gap between the mate value of oneself and the mate value of ones partner, or less mate settling. Moreover, the positive relationship between objective and subjective ratings of self and partner’s physical attractiveness suggests that participants were able to judge themselves and their partners through the eyes of another. In all, evidence from the current work suggests that mating intelligence has important implications for individuals’ mating behavior within the mating market.
Playing Smart: The Mating Game and Mating Intelligence
Haley M. Dillon
&Lora E. Adair
&Glenn Geher
&Zhe Wang
&Patrick H. Strouts
Published online: 19 February 2015
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract Current work investigated the extent to which mat-
ing intelligence was related to ones own mate value as well as
the value of ones mate. We hypothesized that (1) mating
intelligence is positively correlated with measures of self-
perceived mate value, (2) greater mating intelligence is asso-
ciated with greater partner mate value, (3) greater mating in-
telligence is associated with less mate settling, and according
to Parental Investment Theory, females are predicted to have
significantly higher mean mate value than males. Along with
the adoption of the Mate Value Inventory and Mating
Intelligence Scale, a method was developed to assess a more
objective rating of self and partners physical attractiveness. A
large sample(N > 500) was obtained for this study via internet
survey. As predicted, mating intelligence appeared to be a
valid predictor of ones own value in the mating market, as
well as the quality of mates that one can attract. High mating
intelligence also corresponded to lower mate value discrepan-
cy within a mateship. That is, high MI tended to go with a
relatively small gap between the mate value of oneself and the
mate value of ones partner, or less mate settling. Moreover, the
positive relationship between objective and subjective ratings
of self and partners physical attractiveness suggests that par-
ticipants were able to judge themselves and their partners
through the eyes of another. In all, evidence from the current
work suggests that mating intelligence has important implica-
tions for individualsmating behavior within the mating
Keywords Mating intelligence .Mating .Mate value .
Reproduction .Long term mating
In numerous popular and academic circles, mate choice has
been likened to a marketplace (Buss and Barnes 1986;Kaplan
and Lancaster 2003; Marlowe 2000; Pawlowski and Dunbar
1999). Many aspects of marketplace exchange are present
within the human mating environment. For example, assorta-
tive mating suggests that the mating venue involves an ex-
change of goods of relatively equivalent value. In other words,
an individuals own mate value prescribes the quality of mate
that he or she can acquire. However, it appears that assortative
mating patterns are observed not because individuals desire
those of similar or equivalent mate value, but, rather, because
market pressuresplace restrictions on the quality of mate
that an individual can affordon the market (Kalick and
Hamilton 1986). Indeed, when asked to construct an ideal
partner, individuals of varying mate values imagine similar,
high quality mates (Buss and Barnes 1986;Regan1998). The
question then becomes: How can individuals get what they
want in the mating market?
The quality of goods one can acquire in a marketplace are
not necessarily dictated by the quality of goods one has to
exchange. Savvy decision makers can make use of strategies
and knowledge to get more for less in a physical exchange of
goods (Thanassoulis 2004); is it also possible for individual
differences in mating market savvyto predict faring better
in mating market exchange? The current work will address
this question by determining the utility of mating intelligence
in predicting the mate value discrepancy between an
individual and his or her mate. In accordance with the
working mating market analogy, one can see lesser
discrepancies between mate values in a mateship as
corresponding to greater success in a mating market exchange.
*Haley M. Dillon
Department of Psychological Sciences, Kansas State University, 492
Bluemont Hall, Manhattan, KS 66502, USA
Psychology Department, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY, USA
Curr Psychol (2016) 35:414420
DOI 10.1007/s12144-015-9309-y
Human Mate Choice
The evolutionary perspective has shed a great deal of light on
the nature of human mating. Dawkins (1989) following
Darwinian theory, proposed an influential conception of evo-
lution: Our genetic code is fundamentally responsible for our
actions including our reproductive behavior. In a
rearticulation of Darwins original ideas regarding sexual se-
lection, Dawkins argued that our genes ultimately encourage
reproduction. From this angle, genes code for qualities that
lead to self-replication. Further, given that mating with indi-
offspring and increased long-term reproductive success, it is
justified to assume that we (as organisms) should constantly
and consistently aim for the highest quality mates. Following
this idea, it stands to reason that it would be maladaptive to
mate with individuals of low-quality genetics and/or low fer-
tility because it would reduce reproductive success across
generations. Mate settling, or selecting a mate of lesser mate
value than oneself, is associated with greater partner jealousy,
less forgiveness offered to ones partner, emotional manipula-
tion and derogation by onespartner,aswellaslessrelation-
ship satisfaction (Sidelinger and BoothButterfield 2007). On
the flip side of this mating coin would be mating up, wherein
the mating savvy individual would show a discrepancy be-
tween their own mate value and their partners, wherein the
Since the genetic quality of a potential mate cannot be
assessed directly, organisms must rely on their ability to judge
the fitness of others and display attributes indicative of their
own genetic quality. Therefore, one aspect of mating market
savvy would likely be an individuals ability to assess and
display such signals of genetic fitness (i.e., mate quality), de-
fined as mating intelligence, generally defined as the cognitive
processes that underlie the mating domain (see Geher and
Kaufman 2013). The current work seeks to determine the
extent to which mating intelligence (as measured with a self-
report scale conducted by Geher and Kaufman (2013)) is re-
lated to ones own mate value as well as the value of ones
Specific mating relevant attributes that are preferred in the
mating market have been identified in previous research, and
were found to display consistency across cultures (Buss,
1986). These mating preferences are derived from Trivers
(1972) theory of parental investment which explains that the
sex which invests most in offspring should be more selective
when picking mates. In humans, as well as other organisms
with internal female fertilization, females have a greater min-
imum level of parental investment 9 months of gestating as
well as several months of breast feeding. Due to this increased
investment, human females are more discriminating in mate
selection than males are. Likewise, females tend to have a
preference for mates who show high levels of parental
investment (e.g., willingness to invest in offspring; Trivers,
1972). Busss(1986) research found preferential differences
between the sexes predicted by Trivers(1972)theorysuch
that males preferred mates who were younger, consistent with
hypotheses regarding a male preference for reproductively
viable women; while females consistently preferred older
males, in line with predictions of a female preference for
higher status mates (Buss, 1986).
Mate Value
Mate value has been operationally defined in various ways by
past researchers. Buss (1986) assessed mate preferences
across 37 countries and found that high mate value in a male
corresponds to ambition, industriousness, and cues to resource
acquisition. High female mate value was influenced more by
physical attractiveness and cues to fertility/good parenting
(Buss, 1986). Another definition for mate value is the extent
to which mating with an individual and retaining him or her as
a partner would have increased an opposite-sex personsan-
cestral reproductive success (Sugiyama, 2005).
In the current work, mate value is defined by two con-
structs, the first being the Mate Value Inventory (Kirsner,
Figueredo, & Jacob, 2003), a multifaceted scale examining
numerous traits to encompass Mate Value, and the second
being two short physical attractiveness questions: both ask
participants to rate their mates attractiveness on a scale from
1 to 10. The subjective question asks participants to disregard
social standards and norms and rate their mate on physical
attractiveness according to their own standards (this was pre-
sented first, in order to allow participants to give their personal
rating before being asked for a more objective rating). The
objective question asks participants to rate their matesphys-
ical attractiveness through the eyes of beauty pageant judges,
with a series of celebrities with a 10rating to serve as an
anchor of comparison. These two questions use physical at-
tractiveness as a proxy for overall Mate Value.
Mating Intelligence
Success in a mating market exchange, or acquiring a mate of
similar or higher mate value than oneself, is incredibly impor-
tant because, as mentioned above, choosing a low-quality
partner could result in various negative consequences such
as offspring with a decreased chance of survival and marital
unrest (Buss, 2002). A recently proposed construct known as
mating intelligence addresses such cognitive processes that an
individual utilizes for choosing and attracting mates previ-
ously referred to as mating market savvy(Geher & Miller,
Curr Psychol (2016) 35:414420 415
Mating intelligence is a combination of two major aspects
of human psychology: 1) psychological mechanisms designed
for mating purposes, such as the ability to interpret cues from
the opposite sex as well as a capacity for achieving copula-
tions; and 2) mental fitness indicators aspects of human
intelligence that are more indirectly related to mating success,
such as creativity and humor, that may have evolved specifi-
cally for courtship-display purposes, much like the peacocks
luminescent plumage (Geher & Miller, 2008). While these
mental fitness indicators are not directly related to mating
success, perhaps in the way that fitness indicators such as
facial symmetry and waist-to-hip ratio are (Thornhill and
Gangestad 1999), (H1) possessing these fitness indicators is
hypothesized to be associated with greater self-perceived mate
value. These aspects of intelligence, such as creativity, verbal
fluency, and humor, have been previously identified as
sought-after traits in the mating domain (Li, Bailey, Kenrick,
and Linsenmeier 2002; Rosenberg and Tunney 2008). We
predict that mating intelligence is positively related to mate
value of oneself.
We further propose that (H2) greater mating intelligence
will be associated with greater partner mate value. Recent
work suggests that greater mating intelligence is associated
with greater mating success in sex-specific ways; specifically,
males who are high in mating intelligence are more likely to
report having frequent sexual encounters, whereas females
that are high in mating intelligence are more likely to report
an earlier sexual debut (but not a greater number of sexual
partners; OBrien et al. 2010). To the extent to which mating
intelligence predicts the achievement of advantageous sexual
behavior goals (that, according to parental investment theory,
should be sex-specific; Trivers, 1972)males seeking a great-
er number and variety of sex partners, compared to females
(Buss and Schmitt 1993)we propose that mating intelli-
gence should also predict the quality of partner one is able to
attract in the mating market. Consistent with this prediction,
pilot work indicated that those high in mating intelligence
were those who reported engaging in more copulatory acts
and had more successful long-term mateships with relatively
high-quality partners.
Across different levels of mating intelligence, biological sex
is hypothesized to predict mate value (H3) females are pre-
dicted to have significantly higher mate values than males. The
greater discrimination of females when choosing a mate pre-
dicted by parental investment theory implies that females
might, generally, have higher mate values when compared to
males; that is, high-quality individuals can afford to be
choosyon the mating market (Johnstone 1997,pg51).
Generally, we understand that females are more selective,
Parental Investment Theory suggests that females are more se-
lective, and thus more desirable, which increases their apparent
mate value. Indeed, previous work by the current author found
a trend indicating higher mate value in females (Mills, 2011).
Participants were recruited using both the SUNY New Paltz
subject pool as well as the social networking site Facebook.
A total of 1,208 individuals participated in the study and 616
completed it. Each participant was currently enrolled in col-
lege, defined him or herself as currently in a long-term rela-
tionship, and was the age of 18 or older. All sexual orienta-
tions were invited to participate, though for the purposes of the
current work non-heterosexuals were excluded, as were all
individuals who provided unfinished or incomplete surveys.
Of the 549 surveys included in subsequent analyses, 79.1 %
were female (435) and 20.7 % were male (114) between the
ages of 18 and 50 (M=22.31, SD = 4.43). A code was pre-
sented at the end of the survey allowing students with partic-
ipating professors and students in the SUNY New Paltz sub-
ject pool to receive credit.
Materials and Procedure
Data were collected through Qualtrics online survey software
(Qualtrics Lab Inc., Provo, UT), and participation generally
took between 10 and 20 min. Along with a series of demo-
graphic questions, the online survey included the following
Mate Value In the current work, both subjective and objective
measures were used to assess self and partner mate value.
Subjective mate value was measured using the Mate Value
Inventory (MVI; Kirsner et al., 2003), which asks participants
to indicate the extent to which (on a scale from 3: extremely
low on this characteristicto 3: extremelyhighonthischar-
acteristic) attractive characteristics describe themselves and
their partner, such as Attractive,and Kind and
Understanding.The MVI demonstrated good internal consis-
tency within the current sample, Chronbachsα=0.75 for the
self subscale and 0.73 for the partner subscale. Subjective
mate value was also measured via a 110 rating item that
asked participants to rate the physical attractiveness of them-
selves and their partner disregarding social norms or
standards. To obtain a more objective rating (how others
might see our participants and their partners) of self-
perceived and partner mate value, participants were again
asked to use a 110 attractiveness rating to describe them-
selves and their partner; however, in this case participants
were presented with images (of varying ethnicities) from
People Magazines 100 Most Beautiful People issues from
the previous 10 years to use as an anchor. Specifically, partic-
ipants were told to imagine that they had entered into a beauty
contest with their partner, and using images of people that had
received a 10from the judges, indicate what ratings they
416 Curr Psychol (2016) 35:414420
would likely receive. All of these mate value measures were
then used to compute mate value discrepancies our measure
of mate settling. These discrepancies were estimated by
subtracting partner ratings from self-ratings.
Mating Intelligence Mating intelligence was assessed using
the 24-item Mating Intelligence Scale (Geher & Kaufman,
2013), which measures self-reported cognitive abilities in the
mating domain. This scale specifically taps the facets of cross-
sex mind reading for males, an example item is: Iampretty
good at knowing when a female is attracted to me.For fe-
males, items such as I am usually right on the money about a
mans intentions toward mewere included. The scale also
assesses self-perceived creativity, for example, Iamdefinite-
ly more creative than most people.Further, the scale specif-
ically addresses resource-acquisition for females, with items
such as: My current beau spends a lot of money on material
items for me (such as jewelry).Participants respond to these
items as true or false, measuring these and other facets inves-
tigating cognitive processes related to mating. The Mating
Intelligence scale demonstrated good internal consistency (as
it has numerous times in past research, see Geher and
Kaufman 2013) within the current sample, Chronbachs
α=0.77. OBrien et al. (2010) provided evidence of the va-
lidity of this measure across two separate studies (that were
very different in kind from one another). These data speak to
the fact that the self-report measure used here has documented
The first and second hypotheses (H1 & H2) proposed that
mating intelligence would have a significant positive correla-
tion with mate value, for both reports of self and partner.
Several variables assessing mate value were used, requiring
separate analyses to be performed for each mate value vari-
able, as follows.
An initial correlational analysis between mating intelli-
gence and the mate value variables yielded several significant
findings. The predicted mate value advantages associated with
higher mating intelligence were supported for subjective rat-
ings of self-perceived attractiveness (r=0.25, p< .01), objec-
tive ratings of partner attractiveness (r=0.15, p< .01), objec-
tive ratings of self-perceived attractiveness (r=0.24, p<.01),
and for the Mate Value Inventory ratings of self (r=.15,
p< .01). Only the subjective rating of partner attractiveness
and the Mate Value Inventory score of partner were found to
be non-significantly related to mating intelligence scores.
To further elucidate the power of mating intelligence on the
mate value variables, several bivariate correlations were run,
demonstrating sex differentiated correlations between Mating
Intelligence and the Mate Value variables (see Table 1).
Though the correlations among the Mate Value variables
and Mating Intelligence were not large, they still were signif-
icant, indicating a relationship between Mating Intelligence
and the Mate Value variables. H3 was not supported by the
data, females did not have significantly higher mate values
(across variables) compared to males. Furthermore, Mating
Intelligence did not relate to decreased settling. We believe
that this is due to the fact that participants reliably rated their
partners higher on the mate value measures than themselves.
This is demonstrated by a paired-samples t-test, for the Mate
Value Inventory, t(546)= 3.51, p< .001; for Objective
Physical Attractiveness, t(546) = 6.93, p< .001, and for
Subjective Physical Attractiveness,, t(546) = 14.70, p<.001,
for means see Table 2.
Subjective ratings of self-perceived attractiveness sig-
nificantly predicted mating intelligence scores for both
males (b=0.16, t(111) = 4.53, p< .001) and females
(b= 0.17, t(432) = 4.87, p< .001); however, subjective
ratings of partner attractiveness did not significantly pre-
dict mating intelligence scores for either males or
Tabl e 1 Mate value variables correlation with mating intelligence by
Mate value variable Mating intelligence
MVI (Self) Male 0.28**
Female 0.11*
MVI (Partner) Male 0.04
Female 0.04
Subjective (Self) Male 0.40**
Female 0.29**
Subjective (Partner) Male -0.03
Female 0.05
Objective (Self) Male 0.35**
Female 0.22**
Objective (Partner) Male 0.13
Female 0.14**
* Correlation is significant at the
0.05 level (2-tailed)
** Correlation is significant at the
0.01 level (2-tailed)
Tabl e 2 Means for mate value variables
Mate Value Variable Means Std. Dev.
Mate value inventory Partner 99.73 11.10
Self 98.20 %10.38
Objective physical attractiveness Partner 5.98 2.01
Self 5.36 2.06
Subjective physical attractiveness Partner 8.48 1.32
Self 7.28 1.56
Curr Psychol (2016) 35:414420 417
females. Again, consistent with H1, higher mating intel-
ligence was associated with greater self-perceived mate
value (i.e., attractiveness). Also, objective ratings of
self-perceived attractiveness (taking social norms and
expectations into account) served as significant individ-
ual predictors of mating intelligence scores for both
males (b=0.19, t(111) = 3.98, p< .001) and females
(b=0.21, t(432) = 4.73, p< .001). In line with the sec-
ond hypothesis, femalesmating intelligence (but not
males) scores were significantly predicted by objective
ratings of partner attractiveness (b= 0.13, t(432) = 2.92,
p< .01); this indicates that higher mating intelligence
or mating market savvy”–might provide advantages
to individuals for acquiring a high-quality mate.
Sex Differences
Several paired samples t-tests showed differences between
self and partner reports for some of the mate value variables.
For females, there was a significant difference between Mate
Value Inventory ratings for themselves and their partner (t
(433) = 3.99, p< .001), where ratings of partner were higher
than for self. Both males and females showed a significant
difference between subjective ratings of self and partner at-
tractiveness (t(546) = 14.70, p< .001), with partner ratings
being higher for both sexes.
A significant difference between the objective partner and
self ratings emerged for both sexes; for females (t(433)= 4.54,
p< .001), for males (t(112) = 6.10, p< .001). In both cases,
partner ratings were higher than self ratings. The result for
males demonstrated a large effect size (Cohensd=0.68),
while the female result was below the cut-off for a small effect
size (Cohensd=0.21).
Objective versus Subjective Ratings
In any research using self-reports, it is hard to fully acquire
objective information. The design of the objective versus sub-
jective physical attractiveness ratings was created in such a
way as to get the most objective score possible. For subjective
physical attractiveness ratings, participants were presented
with a 110 scale (with the information that a 1 corresponded
to very low attractiveness, and a 10 corresponded to very high
attractiveness) with an added note indicating that participants
should rate themselves and their mate (two different scales)
completely ignoring social standards. For objective ratings of
physical attractiveness, participants were again given a 110
scale for themselves and their partners, only instead of asking
participants to rate themselves and their mate ignoring social
standards, participants were shown a series of attractive celeb-
rities (of various races) and told that these celebrities had
scores of 10in attractiveness, and to use that as a guideline
for rating themselves and their partners. Results indicate that
there was a significant difference between ratings of objective
and subjective physical attractiveness these results showed a
significantly higher mean rating for subjective reports of both
self and partner than objective reports. A paired-samples t-test
was used to analyze the differences for the pair subjective
partner and objective partner; t(546) = 33.41, p< .01 (subjec-
tive partner Mean = 8.48, SD = 1.32; objective partner
Mean = 5.98, SD = 2.01). For subjective self and objective
self; t(546) = 28.25, p< .001 (sub jective self Mean = 7.28,
SD = 1.56; objective self Mean = 5.36, SD = 2.06). These sig-
nificant differences between subjective and objective ratings
suggest that participants were influenced by the prompt to
consider societys perspective in their response and they pro-
vided a more impartial evaluation for the objective measures.
Consistent with hypotheses 1 and 2 (H1 & H2), mating intel-
ligence was shown to positively correlate with several of the
mate value dependent variables. Specifically, higher mating
intelligence was associated with higher subjective ratings of
self-perceived attractiveness, higher objective physical attrac-
tiveness ratings of both self and partner, and higher self-
perceived mate value as indexed by the Mate Value
Inventory. Further, several sex differences emerged among
the dependent variables. For example, objective ratings of
partners physical attractiveness were only significantly relat-
ed to mating intelligence for female participants. That is to say,
malesmating intelligence did not predict their objective rat-
ing of their partnersmatevalue.
Disregarding the sex differences among the correlations
between mating intelligence and the mate value dependent
variables, the results were generally in line with our hypothe-
ses. Higher scores on six of eight mate value variables were
associated with significantly higher mating intelligence
scores. Thus, mating intelligence appears to be a valid predic-
tor of ones own value on the mating market, as well as the
quality of mate that one can attract.
Subjective and Objective Ratings
By determining whether there was a significant difference
between subjective and objective ratings of attractiveness (re-
member that subjective is a score participants reported after
being told to ignore social standards, while objective is a score
participants reported after being given a series of 10sto
compare themselves and their partners to), we were able to
evaluate whether a participant could actually rate his or her
mate (as well as themselves) through the eyes of society, and
determine whether an individual may be settling in his or her
own eyes or from the perspective of others. The significant
differences between objective and subjective ratings indicate
418 Curr Psychol (2016) 35:414420
that participants were able to judge themselves and their part-
ners through the eyes of another.
The distinction between perceptions of mate value via self
or partner also suggests that mate value research needs to think
carefully about how mate value is operationally defined.
Several findings that emerged for self-relevant mate value
were different than findings that emerged for perceived-
partner mate value. Future research should explore the distinc-
tion between these different conceptions of mate value.
The current study did not require subjects to participate with
their partner, so the issue of subjectivity arose to prominence
here. The current work included an objective measure of phys-
ical attractiveness, in addition to a subjective measure, to help
address this matter. As mentioned previously, the ratings of
subjective vs. objective physical attractiveness were signifi-
cantly different, which could possibly rid the study of subjec-
tivity as a confound. Subjectivity as a confound is a major
problem within survey research as a whole, and while our
measure does not remove subjectivity in its entirety, by includ-
ing comparisons to previously rated individuals, we were able
to obtain data that is not completely influenced by onesown
The reliability and validity of the scales used in the current
work strengthen the results, in that arbitrary properties were
minimized. Further, while set to a limited sample, the reliabil-
ity and validity of the scales should help future projects
encompassing a broader array of participants.
Another strength in the current study concerns sample size.
Considering the criteria for participating (individuals who
were currently be in a relationship, enrolled in college, and
over the age of 18), the available number of possible partici-
pants was restricted by multiple factors. Further, for the pur-
poses of the current study, only heterosexual participantsdata
were included, further decreasing the N. Finally, incomplete
surveys were excluded for the sake of analysis ease. After all
of these limitations, to still utilize an N of over 500 is rather
First and foremost, as with many studies in the realm of the
social sciences, there were vastly more female than male par-
ticipants. 79 % of the respondents for data used in the current
work were female. As the current work was limited to college
students, the majority of subjects were between the ages of
1827 (range 1850, M=22.31, SD = 4.43), and likely from
middle-class (or more privileged) homes. Indeed, adolescents
and younger adults may exhibit different mating behaviors
than older adults (Ortiz, 2004).
A limitation that may have confounded some results was
the order in which the mate value measures were given.
Within the survey, each mate value variable was presented
first for the participant to rate his or her partner, and then for
the participant to rate him or herself. It is possible that a ten-
dency to rate oneself similarly to the ratings participants had
just given their partners may have arisen. If the mate value
measures were dispersed among one another as well as other
scales such that the partner rating and self rating of the same
mate value variable were not successive, the potential influ-
ence of presentation order on self-perceived mate value could
have been avoided.
Evidence presented in this study suggesting that mating intel-
ligence is positively related to self-perceived mate value, part-
ner mate value, and lesser mate settling indicates that mating
intelligence has important implications for individuals getting
what they want in a mating market exchange. As an early
investigation into the existence (and utility) of individual dif-
ferences in mating market savvyand their effects on actual
mate-choice outcomes, further investigations will be needed
to explore the replicability of these findings with individuals
from other age groups, cultures, and backgrounds. As work in
this relatively under-studied area increases, these and future
findings should provide an even better understanding of mate
choice and the cognitive adaptations that can help individuals
achieve their mating goals.
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... Conversely, in the context of STM, flirtation seems to function in multiple ways: to increase visibility to potential targets, to display cues of good genes (e.g., attractiveness, intelligence; Dillon et al. 2016;Miller 2000), and to pique the interest of potential mates. An ideal flirtation would provide all this information simultaneously (i.e., a signal that is both attractive and interesting to the highest number of potential mates). ...
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Although flirting behaviors tend to be covert, subtle signals of sexual interest, people are routinely able to employ and decipher such signals successfully to attract mates. Flirting research often focuses on the accuracy of interpreting flirting signals, but the creation and employment of flirting signals has been understudied. The present set of studies examined whether mating strategy would impact preferences for typical or atypical flirting behaviors. In study 1, we conducted an act nomination followed by two rounds of pilot testing to generate a set of flirting behaviors rated on typicality and effectiveness (total N = 416). For study 2, participants (N = 396) read scenarios in which an opposite sex individual showed sexual interest in them, and then chose a response from a set of flirting behaviors that varied in typicality. Consistent with our hypothesis, pursuing a short-term mating strategy was associated with selecting more atypical behaviors. Finally, study 3 explored whether short-term mating would also be associated with preferring atypical flirting behaviors when one is the target rather than the initiator. Participants (N = 486) responded to the same scenarios and flirting behavior options as in study 2 but this time selected which flirting behavior would be most attractive to them as the target. Interestingly, the relationship between mating strategy and typicality of flirting behaviors disappeared; almost all participants preferred the initiator to use the most typical flirting behavior. The apparent mismatch for short-term maters between flirting strategies employed and preferred is discussed.
... However, because human mating decisions take place in a dynamic mating market characterized by mutual mate choice, not everyone can choose the partner representing the highest level of desirable traits, and most people face a trade-off between their preferences and their own resources. As a result, people tend to mate with partners whose emotional abilities are similar to their own (Dillon et al. 2015). Therefore, would positive assortment be detectable in the case of emotional intelligence? ...
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Assortative mating has been studied on a broad range of variables, including intelligence and personality traits. In the present study we analysed the effect of assortative mating for ability emotional intelligence (EI) on a sample of heterosexual couples (N = 382), including dating and married couples. Correlation analyses revealed moderate similarity of Pearson’s r = .27 for general EI score, and was slightly weaker (from .18 to .23) for branch scores. Regression analyses showed that the Perception branch was the strongest single predictor of a partner’s general EI score, both in males and females. Continuous parameter estimation (CPEM) revealed that the magnitude of the correlation does not increase with age, thus it is highly possible that the obtained similarity reflects initial assortment (i.e., similarity at the starting point of the relationship), rather than convergence (i.e., increasing similarity with time). It seems that EI is a significant factor influencing mate assortment processes.
... Individuals with higher mating intelligence scores were more likely to select the attractive over the unattractive mate. Dillon et al., (2015) found that mating intelligence is related to both ratings of self and partner's physical attractiveness, establishing mating intelligence as a valid predictor of mate value. However, their research examined mating intelligence in the context of existing relationships. ...
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Mating intelligence is a fairly new construct with only limited empirical examination. Yet, previous research has found important implications for the construct's role in mating behavior. The present study sought to expand the existing body of research on mating intelligence by investigating its relationship with self-esteem, self-perceived attractiveness, and mate selection. A sample of 195 participants (83 males and 112 females) completed a survey that incorporated measures of mating intelligence, self-esteem, and self-perceived attractiveness. Additionally, participants were asked to choose between an attractive and unattractive mate to take out on a date. Significant positive relationships between mating intelligence, self-esteem, and self-perceived attractiveness were found for both sexes. For males, mating intelligence predicted self-esteem over and above self-perceived attractiveness. Both males and females with higher mating intelligence were more likely to select the attractive mate to date. Self-perceived attractiveness predicted self-esteem for both sexes, but the relationship was stronger for males.
... The findings also show that mating intelligence, as a higher-level cognitive ability, seems to be related to life history, in that it may be the aspect of cognition that allows one to understand the intentions, desires and mating strategies of opposite-sex others. Research indicates that mating intelligence displays individual variation (e.g., Dillon, Adair, Geher, Wang & Strouts, 2015), and therefore, it would be interesting to examine individual differences in comprehension of other's use of life history strategies. ...
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Psychological research has been criticized for its extensive use of American university students to make broad claims about human psychology and behavior. Critics recommend a broader base of participants because there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations, and North American and Western European psychology pool participants may be outliers in comparison with the rest of the species. This challenge is especially pertinent for claims of species-universal evolved psychological architecture. One such claim has been made regarding recognition of human life history strategies. For example, previous research demonstrates that North American women and men can identify male and female characters with fast (high mating effort, low parental investment) and slow (low mating effort, high parental investment) life history strategies, make accurate predictions about their behavioral tendencies, and respond to them in ways that would facilitate participants' own reproductive success. The current project validates the understanding of fundamental life history dimensions across a wide range of cultures, therefore supporting the idea that there is a universality in human's ability to use, and perceive others' use of, life history strategies. Results for each language sample replicated patterns from North
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The average human vocabulary consists of approximately 20,000 word families, yet only 6000-7000 word families are required to understand most communication. One possible explanation for this level of redundancy is that vocabulary size is selected as a fitness indicator and is used for display. Human vocabulary size correlates highly with measurable intelligence and when choosing potential mates individuals actively prefer other correlates of intelligence, such as education. Here we show that males used more low frequency words after an imaginary romantic encounter with a young female shown in a photograph relative to when they viewed photographs of older females. Females used fewer low frequency words when they imagined a romantic encounter with a young male shown in a photograph relative to when they viewed photographs of older males. These differences in male and female vocabulary displays may be related to sex differences in investment costs in offspring.
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The cognitive abilities necessary to successfully navigate mating interactions have been termed “Mating Intelligence,” a theoretical construct that has only recently begun to receive empirical attention. In two studies using samples of undergraduates, we found that one's responses on a self-report Mating Intelligence measure predicts reproductive behavior in both sexes. In the first, higher scores on the survey were associated with more sexual partners in males and early sexual onset in females. The second study, which measured “hook-ups,” or uncommitted sexual encounters, again found higher scores to predict more partners in males. Females with high scores had more hook-ups with males who would be good candidates for long-term relationships. In each study, Mating Intelligence correlated with evolutionarily adaptive decisions for both sexes. While an internal validation found that improvement can be made on this metric, these studies comprise an early step in the empirical study of Mating Intelligence.
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The majority of mate selection research focuses on what people want, rather than what they will settle for, in a partner. The present study explored the extent to which sex, self perceived mate value, and relationship context moderate ideal partner preferences and the willingness to compromise ideal standards. When considering a casual sex partner, men and women emphasized and were unwilling to compromise on physical attractiveness; when considering a romantic partner, both emphasized and refused to compromise on interpersonal responsiveness. Sex differences primarily occurred in the context of short-term mating, with women ideally seeking an older more interpersonally responsive sex partner and demonstrating less willingness than men to compromise their standards on a number of dimensions. Men's mate value largely was disassociated with their selection criteria; women's mate value correlated positively with their ideal preferences across many characteristics and in both mating contexts.
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his chapter considers the evolutionary biology of human fertility, parental investment, and mating and is designed to provide a broad overview of the topic. It focuses on three themes. The first is the timing of life events, including development, reproduction, and aging. Sec- ond is the regulation of reproductive rates and its relationship to parental investment. Sexual dimorphism and its relationship to mating systems to- gether are the third theme. Each of these themes is addressed from two perspectives: first, in a comparative cross-species context, and second, in terms of variation within and among human groups. Our primary goal is to introduce a new ecological framework for understanding variations in each of those domains and then to apply the framework to understanding both the special characteristics of our species in a comparative perspective and variations within and among human groups. A secondary goal is to discuss how evolutionary biology can be integrated with more traditional ap- proaches to human demography and the new research questions such inte- gration would generate. The first section of this chapter presents an introduction to life history theory and current thinking in evolutionary biology with respect to the three themes. Since the fitness consequences of alternative fertility and parental investment regimes depend on ecology and individual condition, both specialization and flexibility in life histories are considered. Building on this foundation, an ecological framework for understanding variation in each of those domains is then introduced. The second section discusses humans in a comparative context, with a particular emphasis on the hunter- and gatherer lifestyle because of its relevance to the vast majority of human
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Mate value discrepancy (MVD), the perceived difference in resource value between self and partner in romantic relationships, may impact both forgiveness and jealousy. One hundred seventy-nine participants rated their own and their partner's mate value, and self-reported forgiveness and jealousy. MVD was associated with forgiveness in romantic relationships in that the higher the value of one's mate in relation to self, the more likely an individual would forgive that partner's transgression. Similarly, MVD played a role with jealousy in that the higher the value of the partner, the more likely an individual experienced jealousy. Additionally, individuals were more likely to forgive transgressions when their partners had higher mate values than theirs, even when jealousy is experienced.
Social exchange and evolutionary models of mate selection incorporate economic assumptions but have not considered a key distinction between necessities and luxuries. This distinction can clarify an apparent paradox: Status and attractiveness, though emphasized by many researchers, are not typically rated highly by research participants. Three studies supported the hypothesis that women and men first ensure sufficient levels of necessities in potential mates before considering many other characteristics rated as more important in prior surveys. In Studies 1 and 2, participants designed ideal long-term mates, purchasing various characteristics with 3 different budgets. Study 3 used a mate-screening paradigm and showed that people inquire 1st about hypothesized necessities. Physical attractiveness was a necessity to men, status and resources were necessities to women, and kindness and intelligence were necessities to both.
This chapter focuses on (1) outlining an adaptationist perspective on physical attractiveness, (2) presenting the basic questions that this perspective leads us to ask, (3) reviewing some important empirical advances in the answering of these questions, and (4) highlighting research avenues calling for increased attention. It argues that human physical attractiveness assessment is generated by adaptations functioning to evaluate evolutionarily relevant cues to human social value across multiple domains of interaction (kin, mating, cooperation) and that evolutionary human life history theory and data from small-scale foraging societies are instrumental in generating predictions about these domains of social value and the cues associated with them. The chapter presents the foundation on which physical (and nonphysical) attractiveness across different domains of social value can most usefully be based and from which those conducting research on physical attractiveness could generate more specific adaptationist hypotheses and empirical tests.
Examined the assertion that men and women of similar attractiveness levels are drawn to one another as romantic partners in 3 computer-simulated experiments with 1,000 hypothetical couples. In the 1st mate selection simulation, the hypothetical Ss were given no awareness of their own attractiveness level but were programmed to demand an attractive partner; in the 2nd simulation, Ss sought a partner who matched their own awareness level; in the 3rd simulation, both of these criteria were used. Each simulation resulted in a significant intracouple attractiveness correlation. The simulation based on pure attractiveness-seeking produced a correlation in the upper range of those reported in actual studies of existing couples. It is argued that the use of models provided by simulations is a means of facilitating backward inference from system-wide patterns to the individual choices and behaviors that may produce these patterns. (38 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)