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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 21-Sep-14


Sunday 21-September-14

How women choose a mate

How do women choose a mate? There are certainly plenty of men who would like to know.

The evolutionary drivers would first point to seeking men who are able to defend and feed the woman and their children, so power is classically attractive, and may be indicated with such as strength, affluence, influence over others and general cleverness. However, men tend to stray, so loyalty must also be important. And of course the woman would not want the man's power turned against her, so kindness is a valued attribute.

But what about beauty? Do women follow 'shallow' men who are so easily seduced by physical features? Researchers Wilbur and Campbella offered female subjects a choice of four mates with varying ambition and attractiveness and found that indeed, women were attracted by good-looking men, though more so when considering short-term sexual encounters, and particularly when the women were open to such relationships. But this all changed when they were thinking about longer-term romantic relationships, even for flighty women, when ambition (which itself is longer-term) became more attractive.

This research underlines two opposing factors that drive much more than just mate selection. The extent to which we think in the short term or the long term has an enormous effect on both our decision and our lives. For those who can think further out, a longer-term perspective will let them reap many future rewards, yet many of us are so smitten with the short term and the present value of things that we often choose a bit of jam today over more jam tomorrow. This is also made worse where temptation is deliberately projected at us by capitalist media throughout the day.

Back in the mating world, men are classically driven by the short term. Nature has told them to spread their seed and so they easily head for quick gratification. Yet when they take time to think, they can also take a longer-term perspective and beyond those that seek the 'eye candy' of a beautiful mate that makes other men envious, there is greater sense in seeking a woman who will be a good companion into later life.

Christopher J. Wilbur and Lorne Campbella, (2010). What do women want? An interactionist account of women?s mate preferences, Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 7,749-754

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