Individuals are often restricted to indirect cues when assessing the mate value of a potential partner. Females of some species have been shown to copy each other’s choice; in other words, the probability of a female choosing a particular male increases if he has already been chosen by other females. Recently it has been suggested that mate-choice copying could be an important aspect of human mate choice as well. We tested one of the hypotheses, the so-called wedding ring effect—that women would prefer men who are already engaged or married—in a series of live interactions between men and women. The results show that women do not find men signaling engagement, or being perceived as having a partner, more attractive or higher in socioeconomic status. Furthermore, signs of engagement did not influence the women’s reported willingness to engage in short-term or long-term relationships with the men. Thus, this study casts doubt on some simplified theories of human mate-choice copying, and alternative, more complex scenarios are outlined and discussed.
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Tobias Uller works on broad issues in evolutionary biology, such as life-history evolution and evolutionary genetics. Christoffer Johansson recently received his Ph.D. with a dissertation on biomechanics of swimming birds. Their collaborative work on humans is focused on mate choice.
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Uller, T., Johansson, L.C. Human mate choice and the wedding ring effect. Hum Nat 14, 267–276 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1006-0