Differences in Male and Female Mate Preferences

29 Mar 2018

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“Differences in male and female mate preferences: Is physical attractiveness an important factor in mate selection?”

  • Maria Myrto Giannakopoulou

Abstract

Many researches have taken place in order to find out the criteria people choose their potential long-term partner. Previous studies have shown that men pay more attention to physical attractiveness, whereas women are more concerned about the financial and social status of their potential spouse. This study was designed to define whether males and females differ in the way they choose their potential long-term partner and if physical attractiveness is an important factor in this choice. Participants were 67 first year undergraduate psychology students, the independent variable was the gender of the participant and the dependent variable was the rating of physical attractiveness that each participant gives us. The material was a questionnaire which contained a list of 11 characteristics that might be present in a potential partner. The results displayed that there was a significant difference between males and females in the importance of physical attractiveness as a basic characteristic in a potential partner.

INTRODUCTION

Many researches have taken place in order to find out the criteria people choose their potential long-term partner. Previous studies have shown that men are more concerned than women about the physical attractiveness of their partner. In cross-cultural researches, participants seem to agree that people who are physically attractive, are treated in a more positive way than others, which means that beauty is an important factor in the choice of a potential partner (Langlois J., H. et al, 2000). In a survey of 37 cultures involving more than 10.000 participants (Buss, 1989) tested predictions concerning sex differences in mate preferences. In 36 of 37 cultures females preferred “capacity for financial success” and males highly valued physical attractiveness over females. Based on Darwin’s theory, that the aim of human life is to maximise gene replication and the only way for humans to live for ever is to pass on their genes (to have children) the criteria for a long-term partner differ between males and females: for females it is more important for the man to be strong in terms of appearance (it leads to a strong baby) and to have a good level of social status (be capable of having money, while she is looking after the baby). On the other hand, the most important criteria for men is that the woman is young and attractive (characteristics that show bigger possibility for the woman to get pregnant). Firstly, Buss and Barnes (1986) collected data from 92 married couples. They gave them 76 mate characteristics, which they had to rate in order. Both sexes rated highly, characteristics, such as thoughtful, kind, good companion, honest, caring etc., but women ranked characteristics as “fond of children”, “ambitious”, “good earning capacity”, higher than males and males on the other hand, ranked characteristics as “attractive”, “good cook” etc, higher than females. Then, Fisman et al (2006), using information from a Speed Dating experiment found that women are more likely to choose a partner who is intelligent, while men will respond more to physical attractiveness. Also, in 1994 Sprecher S., Sullivan Q. & Hatfield E., measured mate preferences for a long-term in 13.000 single adults and they found that for women the social pattern is more important (someone who is a little bit older, who has a job and is financially independent, who is better educated than them), and for men the opposite pattern is more important (a younger woman who is attractive and not necessarily employed or intelligent). Nowadays, there is a weakening of sexual double standard. The number of women who have pre-marital sex has been increased and so there is a decrease of association between sexual activity and marriage. The research of Regan and Berscheid (1997) showed that the preferences for a long-term partner and a short-term partner differ. In a sample of 70 men and women, they found that both men and women prefer physically attractive short-term partners and concerning the preferences of a marriage partner, men prefer a beautiful, attractive women, while females gave more importance on the educational status of their potential spouse. Also, Schwarz S. & Hassebrauck S. (2012), at their research about the mate selection criteria, with 21.245 participants aged 21-65 years old, also found that men highly voted the physical attractiveness as an important criteria, whereas women seem to be more strict in their criteria for a marriage partner. The below study was designed to define whether males and females differ in the way they choose their potential long-term partner and if physical attractiveness is a more important factor in this choice than others.

METHOD

Participants

Participants were 67 first year undergraduate psychology students, 32 males and 35 females of age 18-48 (mean age=20.79).

Design

The independent variable was the gender of the participant (1=male, 2=female) and the dependent variable was the rating of physical attractiveness that each participant gives us. The hypothesis tested is two-tailed: that men and women will differ in the importance they attached to physique. The design employed was a between participants design.

Materials

The material was a questionnaire which contained a list of 11 characteristics (healthy, attentive to partner’s need, attractive physical appearance, overall personality, sense of humour, intelligent, socially or financially powerful, honest and trustworthy, sexually available, creative and artistic, wants children) that might be present in a potential partner. The participants were asked to rank order the characteristics on their desirability in someone with whom they might want to enter a long-term relationship, such as marriage. The characteristic that interests us is the “attractive physical appearance”.

Procedure

The procedure was the following: the participants arrived at CityU. Data collection was done on a computer. Participants were completing the questionnaires individually. They were first asked to read the information sheet and sign the consent form. Secondly, they were asked to fill the short questionnaire on Mate Selection Preferences and finally, they were thanked for their participation in the study.

RESULTS

This experiment looked at whether there will be a significant difference between males and females in how they rank physical attractiveness of their partner. Ordinal, between participants data were obtained and therefore a non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney U) was carried out. There was a significant difference between males and females in the importance of physical attractiveness as a basic characteristic in a potential partner (U=379.50, N=67, N1=32, N2=35, P<0.05, two-tailed).

DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION

The emerged results of this research indicate that the hypothesis we made was right: there is a difference in male and female mate preferences. Men pay more attention to the physical appearance, whereas for women the most important factor is the emotional and economical stability. The findings of this study are related with older studies, that show that some characteristics are highly valued by both sexes, however due to the forces of sexual selection acting slightly differently on males and females they display slightly different preferences (I.e. both sexes rated “loving-kindness”, “compassionate” and “intelligence” highly in a potential partner), but males placed higher emphasis on physical attractiveness, while females placed more emphasis on earning capacity than males (Normal et al, 2002).

References

Buss D., M., (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypothesis tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences (12) p.p. 1-49

Buss D., M. & Barnes M. (1986). Preferences in Human Mate Selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (3) p.p 359-370

Fisman C., Iyengar S., Kamenica E. & Simonson I. (2006). Gender differences in mate selection: Evidence from a speed dating experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. p.p 673-697

Langlois J., H., Kalakanis L., Rubenstein A., J., Larson A., Hallam M. & Smoot M. (2000). Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review. Psychological Bulletin (3) p.p. 390-423

Norman P., L., Douglas T., K., Bailey J., M., & Linsenmeier J.,A., W. (2002). The Necessities and Luxuries of Mate Preferences: Testing the Tradeoffs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (6) p.p. 947-955

Regan P., C. & Berscheid E., (1997). Gender Differences in Characteristics Desired in a Potential Sexual and Marriage Partner. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality (9) p.p. 25-36

Sprecher S., Sullivan Q. & Hatfield E. (1994). Mate Selection Preferences: Gender Differences Examined in a National Sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (6) p.p 1074-1080

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Information and Consent Forms

Mate Selection Preference Questionnaire

Dear Participant,

You are invited to participate in a research experiment which is designed to determine whether males and females differ in the emphasis they place on different characteristics found in a romantic partner. This study will take approximately 5 minutes of your time.

Please complete the questions to the best of your knowledge. If you have any questions please ask the experimenter for assistance. There is no time limit for completing this questionnaire.

RISKS: We do not foresee any risks associated with your participation in this research study.

COST, REIMBURSEMENT, AND COMPENSATION: Your participation in this study is voluntary.

CONFIDENTIALITY/ANONYMITY: The data we collect do not contain any personal information about you. You have the right to withdraw from the study at any point during the session.

Your name or student number, age and sex are required. While these are necessary for describing the sample, they will not appear next to your data in the analysis database – i.e. you will not be able to be identified from it.

Please sign the consent form before completing the questionnaire.

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PARTICIPANT CONSENT FORM

Reference Number: _2015/02___

Participant name or Study ID Number: __________________________

Title of Project: Mare Selection Preference Gender Differences

Name of Researcher: Maria – Myrto Giannakopoulou

___________________________________________________________________

Participant to complete this section:Please initial each box.

1.I confirm that I have read and understand the information sheet for the above study. I have had the opportunity to consider the information, ask questions and have had these answered satisfactorily.

2. I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw at any time, without giving any reason.

3. I agree to take part in the above study.

_______________________________________ ___________________

Signature of Participant

Date

_______________________________________ ___________________

Name of person taking consent Date

____________________________________

Signature of person taking consent

* When completed, give 1 copy for participant & 1 copy for researcher site file.

 

 

Participant ID Number: ____________

Questionnaire

Instructions: This page contains a list of characteristics that might be present in a potential partner. First please read through the list completely. We would like you to rank order the characteristics on their desirability in someone with whom you might wat to enter a long-term relationship, such as marriage.

You might want to first select all those characteristics that you definitely find most desirable in a potential partner, followed by all those that you find not quite as desirable. Then, rank order the characteristics from most to least desirable. Take your time and re-arrange your list as often as you need until you are confortable with your rankings. At that point, please indicate your ranking next to each characteristic on the list. Remember, you are ranking characteristics in a potential marriage partner.

Characteristic

Your Rank of these characteristcs

Healthy

 

Attentive to partner’s needs

 

Attractive physical appearance

 

Overall personality

 

Sense of humor

 

Intelligent

 

Socially or financially powerful

 

Honest and trustworthy

 

Sexually available (“easy”)

 

Creative and artistic

 

Wants children

 



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