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Mate choice in modern societies

Testing evolutionary hypotheses with behavioral data

Abstract

Most research on mate choice in modern societies is based on data that may or may not reflect actual mating behavior (e.g., stated preferences, personal advertisements). In the present study, real-life matings were reported by a large representative sample of men and women (N = 1,133). These data were used to test an evolutionary model in which mate choice is hypothesized to depend on resources potentially contributed to reproduction by each sex. Consistent with the model, it was found that (a) men (but not women) of higher social status acquire more mating partners, suggesting that male status is an important criterion in female choice; (b) women’s (but not men’s) number of partners decreases linearly with age, suggesting that female reproductive potential is an important criterion in male choice; and (c) women (but not men) display a significant relationship between marital dissolution and promiscuity, suggesting that female sexual exclusivity is an important criterion in male choice. These results are discussed in relation to understanding mate choice mechanisms from behavioral data.

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Daniel Pérusse is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal. His research interests include the evolutionary biology of human social and reproductive behavior, sexual selection theory, and biocultural evolution. His current research bears on human socialization processes and psychosocial development from an evolutionary and behavior-genetic perspective. Recent publications include “Cultural and Reproductive Success in Industrial Societies: Testing the Relationship at the Proximate and Ultimate Levels” (Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16(2):267–322, 1993) and “Human Parental Behavior: Evidence for Genetic Influence and Potential Implications for Gene-Culture Theory” with M. C. Neale, A. Heath, and L. J. Eaves (Behavior Genetics, in press).

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Pérusse, D. Mate choice in modern societies. Human Nature 5, 255–278 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02692154

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Key words

  • Sexual selection
  • Mate choice
  • Reproductive effort
  • Social status
  • Confidence of paternity
  • Reproductive potential
  • French Canadians