, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 902-911,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 08 Aug 2007

Sex Differences in Short-term Mate Preferences and Behavioral Mimicry: A Semi-Naturalistic Experiment


Studies on short-term mating (STM) yield sex differences regarding preferences for attractiveness (important to women, very important to men) and social status (very important to women, not to men) in potential mates. Additionally, men generally report a greater desire to engage in STM than women. So far, this evidence is primarily based on studies using vignettes or surveys. The current study extended the findings on sex differences in STM by examining actual behavior and STM-desires towards real people of the opposite sex. It investigated whether (1) sex differences exist in STM-desire, (2) whether this desire was affected by a confederate’s attractiveness and status, and (3) if these sex differences were also reflected in interpersonal behavior (mimicry). In a pub-like laboratory, single heterosexual participants performed a task alongside a confederate of the opposite sex, who differed in attractiveness and social status. Mimicry was observed and explicit STM-desire was assessed. Results showed that men only desired STM more than women in the case of an attractive partner. Women’s STM-desire did not vary as a function of status or attractiveness of the potential partner. Men’s, but not women’s, mimicry paralleled these differential STM-desires. These results underline the conditionality of sex differences in STM-desire and provide a useful paradigm to further investigate STM.