The Importance of Physical Attractiveness to the Mate Choices of Women and Their Mothers
- 3.7k Downloads
Prior research investigating the mate preferences of women and their parents reveals two important findings with regard to physical attractiveness. First, daughters more strongly value mate characteristics connoting genetic quality (such as physical attractiveness) than their parents. Second, both daughters and their parents report valuing characteristics other than physical attractiveness most strongly (e.g., ambition/industriousness, friendliness/kindness). However, the prior research relies solely on self-report to assess daughters’ and parents’ preferences. We assessed mate preferences among 61 daughter-mother pairs using an experimental design varying target men’s physical attractiveness and trait profiles. We tested four hypotheses investigating whether a minimum level of physical attractiveness was a necessity to both women and their mothers and whether physical attractiveness was a more important determinant of dating desirability than trait profiles. These hypotheses were supported. Women and their mothers were strongly influenced by the physical attractiveness of the target men and preferred the attractive and moderately attractive targets. Men with the most desirable personality profiles were rated more favorably than their counterparts only when they were at least moderately attractive. Unattractive men were never rated as more desirable partners for daughters, even when they possessed the most desirable trait profiles. We conclude that a minimum level of physical attractiveness is a necessity for both women and their mothers and that when women and their parents state that other traits are more important than physical attractiveness, they assume potential mates meet a minimally acceptable standard of physical attractiveness.
KeywordsParent-offspring conflict Physical attractiveness Necessities versus luxuries Mate choice Traits
This research was supported by a grant from the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This experiment was approved by the Committee on Using Human Subjects in Research. Informed consent was obtained from both women and their parents prior to their participation (consent from parents was obtained for daughters under 18 as well).
- Cousins, A. J. (2003). Male mate guarding, female solicitation, and resistance to male mate guarding in dating couples: scale development and preliminary validation. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64(3-B), 1477.Google Scholar
- Eastwick, P. W., Eagly, A. H., Finkel, E. J., & Johnson, S. E. (2011). Implicit and explicit preferences for physical attractiveness in a romantic partner: a double dissociation in predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(5), 993–1011. doi: 10.1037/a0024061.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gebauer, J. E., Leary, M. R., & Neberich, W. (2012). Big two personality and big three mate preferences: similarity attracts, but country-level mate preferences crucially matter. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(12), 1579–1593. doi: 10.1177/0146167212456300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Li, N. P., Yong, J. C., Tov, W., Sng, O., Fletcher, G. J. O., Valentine, K. A., Jiang, Y. F., & Balliet, D. (2013). Mate preferences do predict attraction and choices in the early stages of mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 757–776. doi: 10.1037/a0033777.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Perilloux, H. K., Webster, G. D., & Gaulin, S. C. (2010). Signals of genetic quality and maternal investment capacity: the dynamic effects of fluctuating asymmetry and waist-to-hip ratio on men’s ratings of women’s attractiveness. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(1), 34–42. doi: 10.1177/1948550609349514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Zebrowitz, L. A., Wang, R., Bronstad, P., Eisenberg, D., Undurraga, E., Reyes-García, V., & Godoy, R. (2012). First impressions from faces among U.S. and culturally isolated Tsimane’ people in the Bolivian rainforest. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43(1), 119–134. doi: 10.1177/0022022111411386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar