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Mate Choice Copying in Humans – Are All the Taken Men Good?

Summary: Researchers report a woman’s attraction to a man may be boosted if his photo is rated higher by others. However, this also applies to abstract art.

Source: University at St. Andrews.

A new study by researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, Durham, Exeter and Arizona State finds that men get an ‘attractiveness boost’ from being chosen by others – but so do abstract works of art.

The study, led by Dr Kate Cross from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews, published in Scientific Reports today (29 January), casts doubt on the theory that evolution favoured women who were attracted to other women’s partners.

Mate-choice copying is a tendency to find potential partners more attractive when they have already been chosen as a partner by someone else. Many species of bird and fish show mate-choice copying, which helps females to select high-quality males as sexual partners and therefore provides an evolutionary advantage.

Some high-profile studies have appeared to show mate-choice copying in humans. The theory is that women are especially attracted to men who are already partnered because they can be assumed to be kind and faithful – which makes them ‘good mates’. However, previous evidence has been thrown into question by the new study, which showed that women also copy the choices of others when asked about the attractiveness of other types of stimuli such as art.

Dr Cross, lead author of the study, said: “Women in our study found men’s faces more attractive if other women had given that face high ratings. But the same goes for pictures of abstract artworks. Women appear to copy the mate preferences of other women, but this might simply be because humans have a general tendency to be influenced by the opinions of others.”

a man

Mate-choice copying is a tendency to find potential partners more attractive when they have already been chosen as a partner by someone else. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the University at St. Andrews news release.

The study also showed that including lesbian and bisexual women in the experiment didn’t change the results – which suggests that women are influenced the same way, whether or not they view men as potential partners.

Joint author of the paper, Dr Sally Street, Assistant Professor from the Department of Anthropology, Durham University, said: “Social influence affects every area of our lives, and this could include partner choice. But there isn’t, at the moment, clear experimental evidence of a specialised mate-choice copying mechanism in humans.”

When making judgements about attractiveness, it seems the opinions of other people matter, regardless of who, or what, is being judged.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: University at St. Andrews
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the University at St. Andrews news release.
Original Research: Open access research in Scientific Reports.
doi:10.1038/s41598-018-19770-8

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University at St. Andrews “Mate Choice Copying in Humans – Are All the Taken Men Good?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 29 January 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/mate-choice-copying-8393/>.
University at St. Andrews (2018, January 29). Mate Choice Copying in Humans – Are All the Taken Men Good?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved January 29, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/mate-choice-copying-8393/
University at St. Andrews “Mate Choice Copying in Humans – Are All the Taken Men Good?.” http://neurosciencenews.com/mate-choice-copying-8393/ (accessed January 29, 2018).

Abstract

Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning

Women appear to copy other women’s preferences for men’s faces. This ‘mate-choice copying’ is often taken as evidence of psychological adaptations for processing social information related to mate choice, for which facial information is assumed to be particularly salient. No experiment, however, has directly investigated whether women preferentially copy each other’s face preferences more than other preferences. Further, because prior experimental studies used artificial social information, the effect of real social information on attractiveness preferences is unknown. We collected attractiveness ratings of pictures of men’s faces, men’s hands, and abstract art given by heterosexual women, before and after they saw genuine social information gathered in real time from their peers. Ratings of faces were influenced by social information, but no more or less than were images of hands and abstract art. Our results suggest that evidence for domain-specific social learning mechanisms in humans is weaker than previously suggested.

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