There is substantial evidence that in human mate choice, females directly select males based on male display of both physical and behavioral traits. In non-humans, there is additionally a growing literature on indirect mate choice, such as choice through observing and subsequently copying the mating preferences of conspecifics (mate choice copying). Given that humans are a social species with a high degree of sharing information, long-term pair bonds, and high parental care, it is likely that human females could avoid substantial costs associated with directly searching for information about potential males by mate choice copying. The present study was a test of whether women perceived men to be more attractive when men were presented with a female date or consort than when they were presented alone, and whether the physical attractiveness of the female consort affected women’s copying decisions. The results suggested that women’s mate choice decision rule is to copy only if a man’s female consort is physically attractive. Further analyses implied that copying may be a conditional female mating tactic aimed at solving the problem of informational constraints on assessing male suitability for long-term sexual relationships, and that lack of mate choice experience, measured as reported lifetime number of sex partners, is also an important determinant of copying.
KeywordsCultural transmission Facial attractiveness Facial masculinity Mate choice Reproductive strategies Sexual selection
I thank Geoffrey Miller and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and Bob Williams at Durham University for statistical advice.
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