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Intra-sex Variation in Human Mating Strategies: Different People, Different Tactics


Several studies have demonstrated that men and women exhibit different romantic preferences, which align with the patterns predicted by sexual strategies theory. It is also assumed that the mate’s value is a central factor in determining an individual’s sexual strategy. Thus, the current study was developed to investigate whether intra-sex variation exists in the ideal romantic preferences of both genders and whether these preferences are associated with self-perception. To investigate these questions, cluster analyses were performed on the descriptions of ideal mates for short- and long-term relationships given by 366 Brazilian undergraduates (145 men and 221 women). Subsequently, comparisons were made between the lists of self-perceived attributes related to reproduction generated by the resulting groups. The results suggest that males and females use different mating tactics for short-term mating and that males use different tactics for long-term mating. Among men, the mating tactics observed seem to be related to male mate value and their tactics changed when they described ideal short- and long-term partners. Women’s results showed different preference patterns in short-term assessments but minor differences were observed between them in terms of female mate value. For long-term relationships, female patterns were less distinct, indicating a single preference pattern. These findings indicate that a number of different tactics may be clustered together in investigations that address ideal preferences, and that studies of mate preferences must consider individual self-perceptions.

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We thank all the anonymous volunteers who contributed to this study and to all the individuals who allowed its execution, especially R. S. Tokumaru and M. E. Yamamoto. We would also like to thank the reviewers for their comments. This study was financed by the National Council of Technological and Scientific Development through the Millennium Institute for Evolutionary Psychology (Process No. 001795/2005-8) and a study scholarship (Process No. 133669/2007-6).

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Correspondence to Felipe Nalon Castro.

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Castro, F.N., Hattori, W.T. & de Araújo Lopes, F. Intra-sex Variation in Human Mating Strategies: Different People, Different Tactics. Arch Sex Behav 44, 1729–1736 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0533-1

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  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Human mate selection
  • Human sex differences
  • Self-perception
  • Sexual selection