Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1163–1171 | Cite as

The Malleability of Mate Selection in Speed-Dating Events

  • Geertjan Overbeek
  • Stefanie A. Nelemans
  • Johan Karremans
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
Original Paper


This study examined to what extent individual mate selectivity could be explained by characteristics of the mating market. Specifically, we hypothesized that females’ selectivity would be more malleable, or context-dependent, than males’ mate selectivity (cf. Baumeister, 2000; Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). In a series of 22 speed-dating events in which 546 adults aged 22–42 years participated, we investigated whether the proportion of available potential mates (i.e., male–female ratio), which sex rotated during the speed-date event (i.e., approached the other sex), and mate qualities of same-sex competitors affected individuals’ selectivity, as indexed by the proportion of no’s given during the speed-dating events. Results from multilevel analyses demonstrated that, as hypothesized, event characteristics explained mate selectivity only for females. Specifically, women with a lower facial attractiveness and more deviant body mass index (BMI) values were overall less selective, but this trend was only present in speed-dating events characterized by higher intrasex competition—when females rotated or when other females in the event were more attractive or had healthier BMI. The findings partially support the idea of “erotic plasticity” in females, demonstrating that females’ mate selectivity is more malleable and dependent on context than males’ mate selectivity.


Speed-dating Mate selectivity Sex differences BMI Physical attractiveness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geertjan Overbeek
    • 1
  • Stefanie A. Nelemans
    • 1
  • Johan Karremans
    • 2
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Child and Adolescent Studies, Department of Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Social SciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Behavioural Science Institute, Faculty of Social SciencesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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