Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Does physical attractiveness buy happiness? Women’s mating motivation and happiness

  • Ahra Ko
  • Eunkook M. SuhEmail author
Original Paper


Given the centrality of physical attractiveness in women’s mate value, we predicted that mating motive salience would increase the weight of physical attractiveness in women’s happiness. At an individual difference level, women with chronically high levels of mating motivation weighed physical attractiveness more heavily in their happiness than others (Study 1). When mating motivation were experimentally primed, happiness hinged more on physical attractiveness in the mating than in the control condition (Study 2). Finally, when compared across the ovulatory cycle, the importance of physical attractiveness in women’s happiness was accentuated during the high-fertility phase (Study 3). Results provide converging evidence that mating motivation increases the importance attached to and sensitivity towards physical attractiveness in appraising happiness among women. The current work suggests a novel evolutionary function of happiness, namely, to signal progress toward adaptively important goals.


Physical attractiveness Mating motivation Happiness Evolutionary psychology Mate value 



The data reported in this paper were collected as part of the first author’s Master’s thesis at Yonsei University, and portions of this research were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. The authors would like to thank the research assistants who helped to run the participants in this study at the Yonsei University; Ji-Eun Kim, Eun-Young Choi, Je-Wan Park, Ji-Hee Choi, Min-Young Choi. We also thank Jordan W. Moon for comments on the revised manuscript.

Author contributions

All authors contributed to the development of the study concept and design. Data collection and data analysis were performed by A. Ko under the supervision of E. M. Suh. A. Ko drafted the manuscripts, and E. M. Suh provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyYonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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