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Dog ownership increases attractiveness and attenuates perceptions of short-term mating strategy in cad-like men

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Men may have evolved to specialize in short-term "cad" and long-term "dad" mating strategies. We hypothesized that dog ownership would increase the long-term attractiveness of men, especially for cads, as this would signal nurturance and suggest tendencies for relationship commitment. Women read vignettes in an experiment with four conditions varying by male mating strategy described (dad vs. cad) and dog ownership (yes vs. no mention). Dog ownership and the dad vignette increased ratings of long-term attractiveness. Higher ratings of long-term attractiveness for cads were mediated by lower ratings of the character on tendencies for a short-term mating strategy.
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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 11(2013)3, 121–129
DOI: 10.1556/JEP.11.2013.3.2
1789–2082 © 2013 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest
DOG OWNERSHIP INCREASES ATTRACTIVENESS
AND ATTENUATES PERCEPTIONS OF SHORT-TERM
MATING STRATEGY IN CAD-LIKE MEN
SIGAL TIFFERET*,1, DANIEL J. KRUGER2, ORLY BAR-LEV1, SHANI ZELLER1
1Ruppin Academic Center, ISRAEL
2School of Public Health University of Michigan, USA
Abstract. Men may have evolved to specialize in short-term “cad” and long-term “dad” mating
strategies. We hypothesized that dog ownership would increase the long-term attractiveness of
men, especially for cads, as this would signal nurturance and suggest tendencies for relationship
commitment. Women read vignettes in an experiment with four conditions varying by male mat-
ing strategy described (dad vs. cad) and dog ownership (yes vs. no mention). Dog ownership and
the dad vignette increased ratings of long-term attractiveness. Higher ratings of long-term attrac-
tiveness for cads were mediated by lower ratings of the character on tendencies for a short-term
mating strategy.
Keywords: costly signal, dogs, life history, male attractiveness, mate selection
Male mating strategies
DRAPER and BELSKY (1990) propose that men have evolved to specialize in either
short-term “cad” or long-term “dad” mating strategies. Cads invest relatively more
effort in mating and less in parenting compared to dads: they are highly competi-
tive, socially dominant, and brave. Such traits make them attractive for short-term
relationships cross-culturally (DRAPER and BELSKY 1990; KRUGER, FISHER and
JOBLING 2003; LI and KENRICK 2006), perhaps because of their phenotypic and be-
havioral features signaling ‘good genes’ (GANGESTAD and SIMPSON 2000). Dads,
on the other hand, invest more effort in parenting and less in mating. They attract
women because they are compassionate, kind, romantic, and industrious, demon-
strating the ability and willingness to invest in the relationship and potential chil-
dren. These traits make them attractive for long-term relationships cross-culturally
(DRAPER and BELSKY 1990; KRUGER, FISHER and JOBLING 2003; LI and KENRICK
2006; SENKO and FYFFE 2010), especially for older women (BRUMBAUGH and
WOOD 2013; TIFFERET and KRUGER 2010).
*Address for correspondence: SIGAL TIFFERET, Ruppin Academic Center, ISRAEL; e-mail:
sigal.tifferet@gmail.com; DANIEL J. KRUGER, School of Public Health University of Michigan,
USA; e-mail: kruger@umich.edu; ORLY BAR-LEV; e-mail: orly_bar_lev@walla.com; SHANI
ZELLER; e-mail: shanizeler@gmail.com
SIGAL TIFFERET, DANIEL J. KRUGER, ORLY BAR-LEV, SHANI ZELLER
JEP 11(2013)3
122
The divide between dads and cads could be attributed to individual differences
in testosterone reactivity to challenge (ARCHER 2006). High testosterone is linked
with confidence (DABBS Jr. et al. 2001), dominance (SLATCHER, MEHTA and JO-
SEPHS 2011), multiple mates (POLLET et al. 2011), decreased martial satisfaction
(GRAY et al. 2002), and lower parenting effort (PERINI et al. 2012), which are all
concordant with a cad strategy.
Women would ideally prefer a well-rounded mate with the positive attributes
of both strategies, a man who is both lively and trustworthy, for short- and long-
term relationships (LI and KENRICK 2006; BUSS and SHACKELFORD 2008). How-
ever, there are trade-offs between a mate’s genetic fitness and his willingness to
help in child-rearing (GANGESTAD and SIMPSON 2000). Therefore, it may be diffi-
cult to find well-rounded men, especially for women with an average level of attrac-
tiveness (BUSS and SHACKELFORD 2008).
Dog ownership
The human–canine connection is both ancient (GERMONPRÉ, LÁZNIČKOVÁ-
GALETOVÁ and SABLIN 2012) and widespread (SERPELL and PAUL 2011). Although
the vast majority believe that owning a dog is physically and psychologically bene-
ficial (e.g., EL-ALAYLI et al. 2006; HEADEY and GRABKA 2011; MCCONNELL et al.
2011; WELLS 2009), others argue that this widely held belief is unsubstantiated
(HERZOG 2011). ARCHER (2011) claims that keeping a pet is maladaptive; it is a by-
product of our adaptive social mechanisms that facilitate parental behavior. On the
other hand, owning a dog may be adaptive in signaling a number of traits, although
this claim has not been tested empirically (SERPELL and PAUL 2011). Dog owner-
ship could signal that the man has enough material resources such as time and
money to take care of the dog (SERPELL and PAUL 2011), or that he is dominant
enough for a dog to obey him. It can also signal that the man has empathy and other
emotional resources, allowing him to affectionately bond with another, and to have
a long-term commitment to care (SERPELL and PAUL 2011). Perhaps this is the rea-
son why walking with a dog elicits social responses from bystanders (MESSENT
1984), and even increases the chances that women would give the experimenter
their phone number (GUÉGUEN and CICCOTTI 2008).
Dog ownership should increase attractiveness for long-term relationships, es-
pecially for cads. The main signal transferred by a man owning a dog may be the
potential to care for another. Dads are by definition caring, so dog ownership would
add little signal value to them. Cads, however, are less warm and caring in general
(JONASON and BUSS 2012), so dog ownership may significantly increase their at-
tractiveness for long-term relationships by reducing the perception of these defi-
ciencies. Dog ownership may also increase attractiveness for short-term relation-
ships for two reasons. First, dog ownership may signal physical resources and
dominance. Second, some women view short-term relationships as a means of at-
DOG OWNERSHIP AND MALE ATTRACTIVENESS
JEP 11(2013)3
123
taining a long-term relationship and thus may select a man considered more likely
to make this transition (LI and KENRICK 2006).
In order to explore this phenomenon we devised an experiment in which
women rated male descriptions with or without a dog. This method is superior to
the common methodology of asking the participant which traits they prefer in their
mate, because it can identify unconscious preferences.
Hypotheses
H1: Dog ownership will significantly increase short-term relationship attractiveness
(STA).
H2: Dog ownership will significantly increase long-term relationship attractiveness
(LTA), especially for cads.
H3: Dog ownership will reduce perceptions of high male mating effort (ME), espe-
cially for cads.
H4: Lower perceptions of ME will mediate the relationship between dog ownership
and LTA for cads.
METHOD
Participants and measures
One hundred Israeli women (age: M = 25.5, SD = 3.35), mostly childless (87%) and
unmarried (70%), rated two vignettes. The vignettes reflected a typical dad and cad
in Israeli culture. In half of the vignettes of each category, the words “owns a dog”
were added.
Each participant rated two vignettes: a cad with a dog and a dad without a dog
or a cad without a dog and a dad with a dog. After each vignette, the participant
rated the attractiveness of the character, and his level of ME. Following KRUGER,
FISHER and JOBLING (2003), for each character, the women rated how much they
would like to: “Marry him” (LTA), and “Have an affair with him” (STA). Items
were rated on a five-point scale ranging from 1 = Not at all, to 5 = Very much.
Mating effort (ME) was assessed using the Kruger Life History Scale (KLHS;
KRUGER and PIGLOWSKI 2012), which has high inter-item reliability and predictive
validity. The KLHS includes 14 statements regarding a person that are rated accord-
ing to their probability on an eleven-point scale of deciles ranging from 0% to
100%. Items represent behaviors associated with short-term mating such as “would
cheat on his partner”, and “would get into fights”. Five of the items are reverse
coded, for example: “would take good care of his kids”, or “would work hard at his
job, even though he doesn’t like it” (in the present study alpha = .75–.88).
SIGAL TIFFERET, DANIEL J. KRUGER, ORLY BAR-LEV, SHANI ZELLER
JEP 11(2013)3
124
Data analysis
Because each woman rated two of the four descriptions, these two ratings were de-
pendent. Therefore, the data was regarded as dyadic data, and was analyzed using
multilevel modeling. Level 1 was the individual rating of a vignette, which was
nested in level 2 – the participant. Data were entered into SPSS, organized using
double entry method (GRIFFIN and GONZALEZ 1995) and analyzed for actor effects
in distinguishable members (KENNY, KASHY and COOK 2006). Dog ownership was
centered to the grand mean. H4, comparing one description taken from one group of
participants to another description taken from a different group of participants, was
tested using traditional bootstrapping mediation methods.
Results
The multilevel model replicated the preference for cads in short-term relationships
(STA), β = .20, t(96) = 3.97, p < .001, and supported H1’s prediction that dog own-
ership would increase attractiveness in short-term relationships, β = .11, t(96) =
2.23, p = .03 (see Table 1). Dads were preferred in long-term relationships (LTA),
β = .18, t(98) = 2.96, p = .004, replicating previous findings, and dog ownership in-
creased attractiveness in long-term relationships, β = .14, t(98) = 2.18, p = .03, sup-
porting H2. H2 also specified that dog ownership would increase LTA more so for
cads than for dads. Although the expected interaction did not reach statistical sig-
nificance overall, β = .13, t(98) = 1.74, p = .09, simple slope analysis indicated that
dog ownership had no effect on the long-term attractiveness of the dad, β = .002,
t(187) = 0.02, p = .98, but did increase the long-term attractiveness of the cad,
β = .13, t(187) = 2.71, p = .007, (see Figure 1).
Table 1. Standardized coefficients for dog ownership and cad description predicting short-term
attractiveness, long-term attractiveness, and mating effort
Predictor Short-term
Attractiveness Long-term
Attractiveness Mating effort
B SE B β B SE B β B SE B β
Dog ownership 0.27 0.12 .11* 0.30 0.14 .14* –2.35 1.74 –.08
Cad description 0.24 0.06 .20*** –0.20 0.07 –.18** 8.49 0.87 .57***
Dog ownership X
Cad description 0.19 0.21 .08 0.29 0.17 .13 –4.12 1.65 –.14*
p < .10, * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
DOG OWNERSHIP AND MALE ATTRACTIVENESS
JEP 11(2013)3
125
Cad
Dad
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
No Dog Dog
Figure 1. Long-term attractiveness of cads and dads with or without a dog
Ratings of mating effort (ME) were higher for the cad description than the dad
description, validating the vignette content, β = .57, t(98) = 9.75, p < .001 (see Ta-
ble 1). Dog ownership did not have a significant main effect on ME, β = –.08,
t(98) = –1.35, p = .18, but did interact with the description, β = –.14, t(98) = –2.49,
p = .01. Simple slope analysis of the interaction indicated that dog ownership did
not have an effect on ME ratings for dads, β = .06, t(195) = 0.74, p = .98 but sig-
nificantly lowered ME ratings for cads, β = –.22, t(195) = –2.70, p = .008, support-
ing H3 (see Figure 2).
Cad
Dad
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
No Dog Dog
Figure 2. Perceived mating effort of cads and dads with or without a dog
SIGAL TIFFERET, DANIEL J. KRUGER, ORLY BAR-LEV, SHANI ZELLER
JEP 11(2013)3
126
We tested the mediated model predicted in H4 by bootstrapping after centering
the variables using z scores, using the non-dyadic dataset (see PREACHER and
HAYES 2004) As hypothesized, dog ownership predicted lower perceived ME,
β = –.24, p = .015; and lower perceived ME predicted higher LTA for cads,
β = –.42, p < .001 (see Figure 3). The effect of dog ownership on cad LTA in the
mediated model (β = .16, p = .08) was less than in the unmediated model (β = .27, p
= .007). This significant reduction is reflected in the bootstrap estimate of the indi-
rect effect β =.11, 95%CI [0.02, 0.20]. No mediation effects were apparent for the
cads’ STA, or for any of the dads’ attractiveness measures.
Perceived Mating Effort
Dog Ownership Cad Long-Term
Attractiveness
a = -0.24* b = -0.42**
c = 0.16
c' = 0.27**
Figure 3. Standardized coefficients and hypothesized model of mating effort as a mediator of the
effect of dog ownership on cad long-term attraction
c = path coefficient before controlling for mating effort, c’ = path coefficient after controlling for
mating effort. *p < .05, **p < .01
DISCUSSION
We supported several hypotheses on how dog ownership increases male attractive-
ness for both short- and long-term relationships using an experimental design. Dogs
are especially advantageous to cads for attracting women seeking long-term part-
ners, as dog ownership reduces perceptions of a man having a short-term, high mat-
ing effort reproductive strategy. Perceived mating effort did not mediate attractive-
ness for short-term relationships. Thus, in such relationships the mechanism may be
a signal of physical resources, dominance, or other characteristics rather than a
higher probability of an affair leading to a long-term relationship.
The effects of dog ownership on male attractiveness may be culture-
dependent. In the current study’s population of modern Israeli, dogs seemed to have
softened the perception of cads, increasing the attribution of parental characteristics
to them. However, Paleolithic dogs may have signaled resources or dominance
more so than parental investment. European Paleolithic dogs weighed approxi-
DOG OWNERSHIP AND MALE ATTRACTIVENESS
JEP 11(2013)3
127
mately 35 kg (GERMONPRÉ, LÁZNIČKOVÁ-GALETOVÁ and SABLIN 2012), about the
size of a German Shepherd, and were probably very useful in hunting: finding the
prey, stopping and carrying it back to camp (GERMONP, LÁZNIČKOVÁ-
GALETOVÁ and SABLIN 2012). Among present day Aka and Bofi, dogs also play a
clear functional hunting role with no apparent emotional relationship (LUPO 2011).
In such cultures, dog ownership may not reduce perceptions of mating effort and
may even increase perceptions of resource control and dominance, which may in-
crease attractiveness, especially for dads.
In conclusion, women prefer men with both positive cad and dad traits. In
modern societies, dog ownership signals substantial caretaking in a long-term rela-
tionship. Thus a cad with a dog is especially attractive to women, as they may be-
lieve they are getting the best of both worlds.
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Sexual strategies theory indicates women prefer mates who show the ability and willingness to invest in a long-term mate due to asymmetries in obligate parental care of children. Consequently, women’s potential mates must show they can provide investment – especially when women are seeking a long-term mate. Investment may be exhibited through financial and social status, and the ability to care for a mate and any resulting offspring. Men who care for children and pets (hereafter “dependents”) are perceived as high-quality mates, given that dependents signal an ability to invest; however, no studies have examined how dependents are associated with short-term and long-term mating strategies. Here, online dating profiles were used to test the predictions that an interactive effect between sex and mating strategy will predict displays of dependents, with long-term mating strategy predicting for men but not women. Moreover, this pattern should hold for all dependent types and, due to relative asymmetries in required investment, differences will be strongest regarding displays of children and least in non-canine pets. As expected, men seeking long-term mates displayed dependents more than men seeking short-term mates, but both men and women seeking long-term mates displayed dependents similarly. This pattern was driven mostly by canines. These findings indicate that men adopting a long-term mating strategy display their investment capabilities more compared to those seeking short-term mates, which may be used to signal their mate value.
... We found that the less attractive a woman thought her current mate was, the more impor-tance she placed on receiving financial assistance from her long-term partner. Although, women would ideally prefer all-in-one partners who possess highly desirable traits for both short-term (e.g., physical attractiveness) and long-term mating (e.g., resource provisioning; Buss & Shackelford, 2008;Li & Kenrick, 2006;Tifferet, Kruger, Bar-lev, & Zeller, 2013), there is a trade-off between a male's "good genes" and his willingness for paternal investment (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). It is interesting that women are willing to trade off a mate's attractiveness for resources but are not willing to trade off other traits like being companionable or of an ideal age (Waynforth, 2001). ...
... We also found that women who rated their partners as being more attractive desired greater emotional support from their partners. This finding might be explained by men's "cad" versus "dad" mating strategies (Kruger, Fisher, & Jobling, 2003;Tifferet et al., 2013). Wanting emotional support from a highly attractive mate may be a woman's tactic to secure his commitment because this desirable mate or "cad" may have many mating opportunities elsewhere. ...
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... Interestingly, heterospecifics can also constitute extended phenotypic cues. Pet ownership, for instance, increases a male's attractiveness to a woman (Tifferet et al. 2013). In a simple but clever experimental set-up, a highly attractive male confederate set about soliciting phone numbers from young women on the street (Guéguen and Ciccotti 2008). ...
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