Men, relative to women, can benefit their total reproductive success by engaging in short-term pluralistic mating. Yet not all men enact such a mating strategy. It has previously been hypothesized that high mate value men should be most likely to adopt a short-term mating strategy, with this prediction being firmly grounded in some important mid-level evolutionary psychological theories. Yet evidence to support such a link has been mixed. This paper presents a comprehensive meta-analysis of 33 published and unpublished studies (N = 5928) in which we find that that self-reported mate value accounts for roughly 6% of variance in men’s sociosexual orientation. The meta-analysis provides evidence that men’s self-perceived mate value positively predicts their tendency to engage in short-term mating, but that the total effect size is small.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The analysis using SOI subscales controlled for random intercepts within lab-groups and within-study (not within paper), because multiple effect sizes were included from the same studies (and there were no duplicate papers).
References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis
*Albert, G. (2019). Mate value data set. Boston, MA.
*Arnocky, S. (2017). Intrasexual competition, gossip, and mating study.
*Arnocky, S. (2018). Immunocompetence and morphology in men NSERC-DDG Study.
Arnocky, S., Bird, B. M., & Perilloux, C. (2014a). An evolutionary perspective on characteristics of physical attractiveness in humans. In A. Rennolds (Ed.), Psychology of interpersonal perception and relationships (pp. 115–155). New York: Nova Publishers.
Arnocky, S., Carré, J. M., Bird, B. M., Moreau, B. J. P., Vaillancourt, T., Ortiz, T., & Marley, N. (2018). The facial width to height ratio predicts sex drive, sociosexuality, and intended infidelity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(5), 1375–1385. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1070-x.
*Arnocky, S., & Kelly, B. (2018). Nipissing online dating deception study. Unpublished data.
*Arnocky, S., Sunderani, S., Albert, G., & Norris, K. (2014b). Sex differences and individual differences in human facilitative and preventive courtship. Interpersona, 8(2), 210–221. https://doi.org/10.5964/ijpr.v8i2.159.
Arnocky, S., Woodruff, N. W., & Schmitt, D. P. (2016). Men’s sociosexuality is sensitive to changes in mate-availability. Personal Relationships, 23(1), 172–181. https://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12118.
*Back, M. D., Penke, L., Schmukle, S. C., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2011). Knowing your own mate value: Sex-specific personality effects on the accuracy of expected mate choices. Psychological Science, 22(8), 984–989. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611414725.
Bird, B. M., Carré, J. M., Knack, J. M., & Arnocky, S. (2016). Threatening men’s mate value influences aggression towards an intrasexual rival: The moderating role of narcissism. American Journal of Psychology, 129(2), 169–183. https://doi.org/10.5406/amerjpsyc.129.2.0169.
*Blake, K. R., Bastian, B., & Denson, T. F. (2016). Perceptions of low agency and high sexual openness mediate the relationship between sexualization and sexual aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 42(5), 483–497. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.21644.
*Botnen, E. O. (2017). Associations between picture-based mobile dating app use, sociosexuality, self-perceived mate value and self-esteem. Unpublished manuscript. Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/11250/2450312.
*Brandner, J. L. (2019). Error management theory, signal detection theory, and the male sexual overperception effect. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS.
*Brandner, J. L., Brase, G. L., & Huxman, A. J. (2020). “Weighting" to find the right person: Compensatory trait integrating versus alternative models to assess mate value. Evolution and Human Behavior, 41(4), 284–292. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2020.05.001.
Brase, G. L., & Guy, E. C. (2004). The demographics of mate value and self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(2), 471–484. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(03)00117-X.
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12(1), 1–49. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X00023992.
Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100(2), 204–232. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295x.100.2.204.
Butterfield, N. J. (2000). Bangiomorpha pubescens n. gen., n. sp.: Implications for the evolution of sex, multicellularity, and the Mesoproterozoic/Neoproterozoic radiation of eukaryotes. Paleobiology, 26(3), 386–404. https://doi.org/10.1666/0094-8373(2000)026%3c0386:BPNGNS%3e2.0.CO;2.
Carré, J. M., McCormick, C. M., & Mondloch, C. J. (2009). Facial structure is a reliable cue of aggressive behavior. Psychological Science, 20(10), 1194–1198. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02423.x.
*Clark, A. P. (2006). Are the correlates of sociosexuality different for men and women? Personality and Individual Differences, 41(7), 1321–1327. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.05.006.
Cumming, G. (2014). The new statistics: Why and how. Psychological Science, 25(1), 7–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613504966.
Edlund, J. E., & Sagarin, B. (2014). The Mate Value scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 64, 72–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.02.005.
Ellis, B. J., & Symons, D. (1990). Sex differences in sexual fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach. Journal of Sex Research, 27(4), 527–555. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499009551579.
Fisher, M. L., Cox, A., Bennett, S., & Gavric, D. (2008). Components of self-perceived mate value. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2(4), 156–168. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0099347.
Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(4), 573–644. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0000337X.
Gomula, A., Nowak-Szczepanska, N., & Danel, D. P. (2014). Self-perceived sociosexuality and mate value asymmetry in heterosexual romantic relationships. Anthropological Review, 77(3), 287–298. https://doi.org/10.2478/anre-2014-0022.
Harris, C. R. (2000). Psychophysiological responses to imagined infidelity: The specific innate modular view of jealousy reconsidered. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(6), 1082–1091. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112.
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X.
*Jackson, J. J., & Kirkpatrick, L. E. (2007). The structure and measurement of human mating strategies: Toward a multidimensional model of sociosexuality. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(6), 382–391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.04.005.
*Jonason, P. K., Garcia, J. R., Webster, G. D., Li, N. P., & Fisher, H. E. (2015). Relationship dealbreakers: Traits people avoid in potential mates. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(12), 1697–1711. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167215609064.
Kaplan, H., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., & Hurtado, A. M. (2000). A theory of human life history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology, 9(4), 156–185. https://doi.org/10.1002/1520-6505(2000)9:4%3c156::AID-EVANS%3e3.0.CO;2-7.
Kenrick, D. T., Keefe, R. C., Bryan, A., Barr, A., & Brown, S. (1995). Age preferences and mate choice among homosexuals and heterosexuals: A case for modular psychological mechanisms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(6), 1166–1172. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1686.
Kirsner, B. R., Figueredo, A. J., & Jacobs, W. J. (2003). Self, friends, and lovers: Structural relations among Beck Depression Inventory scores and perceived mate values. Journal of Affective Disorders, 75(2), 131–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0165-0327(02)00048-4.
*Kolze, K. E., Brase, G. L., & Brandner, J. L. (2019). Are mating strategies shaped by foraging strategies? Individual differences associated with search patterns through dating pools. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Lalumière, M. L., Chalmers, L. J., Quinsey, V. L., & Seto, M. C. (1996). A test of the mate deprivation hypothesis of sexual coercion. Ethology and Sociobiology, 17(5), 299–318. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0162-3095(96)00076-3.
Landolt, M. A., Lalumière, M. L., & Quinsey, V. L. (1995). Sex differences in intra-sex variations in human mating tactics: An evolutionary approach. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16(1), 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/0162-3095(94)00012-V.
*Lee, A. J., Dubbs, S. L., Von Hippel, W., Brooks, R. C., & Zietsch, B. P. (2014). A multivariate approach to human mate preferences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(3), 193–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.01.003.
*Longman, D. P., Surbey, M. K., Stock, J. T., & Wells, J. C. K. (2018). Tandem androgenic and psychological shifts in male reproductive effort following a manipulated “win” or “loss” in a sporting competition. Human Nature, 29(3), 283–310. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-018-9323-5.
*Mak, K. W. (2019). Understanding human love: Romantic dealbreakers and their relationship with gender, commitment, mate value, and sociosexuality. Unpublished master's thesis, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
Marlowe, F. (1999). Male care and mating effort among Hadza foragers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 46(1), 57–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002650050592.
Meskó, N., Láng, A., & Kocsor, F. (2014). The Hungarian version of Sociosexual Orientation Inventory Revised (SOI-R): Sex and age differences. Interpersonal: An International Journal on Personal Relationships, 8(1), 85–99. https://doi.org/10.5964/ijpr.v8i1.130.
*Moon, J. W. (2019). Untitled data set. Unpublished data.
*Moon, J. W., Krems, J. A., & Cohen, A. B. (2018). Religious people are trusted because they are viewed as slow life-history strategists. Psychological Science, 29(6), 947–960. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617753606.
Nascimento, B. S., Hanel, P. P. H., Monteiro, R. P., Gouveia, V. V., & Little, A. C. (2017). Sociosexuality in Brazil: Validation of the SOI-R and its correlates with personality, self-perceived mate value, and ideal partner preferences. Personality and Individual Differences, 124(1), 98–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.12.007.
*Penke, L., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2008). Beyond global sociosexual orientations: A more differentiated look at sociosexuality and its effects on courtship and romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1113–1135. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1243.
*Perrilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010). Testosterone and men’s overperception. Unpublished data.
*Prokosch, M. (2019). Life history correlates in a student sample. Unpublished data.
R Development Core Team. (2019). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Rand, C. S., & Hall, J. A. (1983). Sex differences in the accuracy of self-perceived attractiveness. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(4), 359–363. https://doi.org/10.2307/3033724.
Raw, C. J. (2008). Individual differences in sociosexual orientation and long-term mate value preferences. Unpublished manuscript. University of Edinburgh, UK. Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/1842/2952.
*Rotella, A. (2020). Who cooperates and why? Investigations of the roles of individual differences and reputation in cooperative behaviours. Doctoral dissertation, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.
*Rotella, A., & Barclay, P. (2019). Mating competition and cooperation: Restricted mating strategies are associated with prosociality. Manuscript in preparation.
Sabini, J., & Green, M. C. (2004). Emotional responses to sexual and emotional infidelity: Constants and differences across genders, samples, and methods. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(11), 1375–1388. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167204264012.
Scheib, J. E., Gangestad, S. W., & Thornhill, R. (1999). Facial attractiveness, symmetry and cues of good genes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 266(1431), 1913–1917. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1999.0866.
Schmitt, D. P. (2005). Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(2), 247–275. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0140525x05000051.
Schmitt, D. P., & 118 Members of the International Sexuality Description Project. (2003). Universal sex differences in the desire for sexual variety: Tests from 52 nations, 6 continents, and 13 islands. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(1), 85–104. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199.
Schmitt, D. P., & Buss, D. M. (2001). Human mate poaching: Tactics and temptations for infiltrating existing mateships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(6), 894–917. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.524.
*Seda, D., & Edlund, J. E. (2019). Consensual non-monogamy and personality. Manuscript in preparation.
Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Personality and sexuality: Empirical relations and an integrative theoretical model. In K. McKinney & S. Sprecher (Eds.), Sexuality in close relationships (pp. 71–92). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Starratt, V. G., Weekes-Shackelford, V., & Shackelford, T. K. (2017). Mate value both positively and negatively predicts intentions to commit an infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 18–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.07.028.
*Strouts, P. H., Brase, G. L., & Dillon, H. M. (2017). Personality and evolutionary strategies: The relationships between HEXACO traits, mate value, life history strategy, and sociosexuality. Personality and Individual Differences, 115(1), 128–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.03.047.
Sugiyama, L. (2005). Physical attractiveness in adaptationist perspective. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 292–342). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Facial sexual dimorphism, developmental stability, and susceptibility to disease in men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(2), 131–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.06.001.
Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of Man (pp. 1871–1971). Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Valentine, K. A., Li, N. P., Penke, L., & Perrett, D. I. (2014). Judging a man by the width of his face: The role of facial ratios and dominance in mate choice at speed-dating events. Psychological Science, 25(3), 806–811. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613511823.
Viechtbauer, W. (2010). Conducting meta-analyses in R with the metaphor package. Journal of Statistical Software, 6(3), 1–48. https://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v036.i03.
*Wagstaff, D. L., Sulikowski, D., & Burke, D. (2015). Sex differences in preference for looking at the face or body in short-term and long-term mating contexts. Evolution, Mind and Behavior, 13(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1556/2050.2015.0003.
*Williams, K. (2019). Untitled data set. Unpublished data.
*Yilmaz, C. (2016). The origins of individual differences in romantic attachment: Evolutionary psychological insights. Master’s thesis, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychology.
*Znaor, J. (2014). The relationship between sex, sociosexuality, self-monitoring, and self-perceived mate value from the evolutionary perspective. Diploma Thesis, Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Psychology.
Steven Arnocky, Jessica Desrochers, and Amanda Rotella have contributed equally to this project. We would like to thank the following researchers for responding to our call and providing data: Jan Antfolk, Mitja Back, Jordann Brandner, Gary Brase, Dennis Fisher, Ben Jones, Satoshi Kanazawa, Anthony Lee, Aaron Lukaszewski, King Mak, Jordan Moon, Rebecca Owens, Carin Perilloux, Marjorie Prokosch, and Keelah Williams. Additionally, we would like to thank Nicole Barbaro (HBES) and Kelly Suschinsky (IASR) for sending out calls for data.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Ethical Approval/Informed Consent
Following articles 2.2 to 2.4 of the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, ethics approval is not required for reanalysis of publicly available data or secondary use of data (article 5.5) which is provided without any identifier or group of identifiers which would allow attribution of private information to an individual.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Arnocky, S., Desrochers, J., Rotella, A. et al. Men’s Mate Value Correlates with a Less Restricted Sociosexual Orientation: A Meta-Analysis. Arch Sex Behav (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-01937-6
- Mate value
- Sociosexual orientation
- Mating strategies
- Strategic pluralism theory
- Sexual behavior