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Changes in Positive Affect Due to Popularity in an Experimental Dating Context Influence Some of Men’s, but Not Women’s, Socio-Political Attitudes

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Trait mate value covaries with several socio-political attitudes. One’s dating popularity in a mating market can, however, shift one’s self-perceived mate value in that market. We tested whether dating popularity could therefore also shift socio-political attitudes, and whether trait mate value could moderate this effect.


Heterosexual participants (N = 237) reported their trait mate value. Participants then recorded a video of themselves and received video responses from five opposite-sex peers, each consisting of either positive or negative romantic feedback—forming the manipulation (popularity: from low to high). Afterwards, we measured participants’ attitudes to traditional gender roles, casual sex, minimum wage and healthcare, and implicit sexual and political attitudes.


Unpopular men reported less support for casual sex than popular men. There was no main effect on women. Unpopular men had lower positive affect than popular men, and in turn men with lower positive affect reported less support for casual sex and for increasing the minimum wage and access to healthcare than men with higher positive affect. Unpopular low mate-value women reported more support for casual sex than popular low mate-value women. Unpopular men of low and average mate value reported less support for casual sex than popular men of low and average mate value. There was no effect on average mate-value women and high mate-value women and men.


Changes in positive affect due to dating popularity influence some of men’s, but not women’s, socio-political attitudes, and trait mate value moderates the effects of popularity on attitudes to casual sex.

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We would like to thank UNSW and the Australian Research Council for supporting this research project. We would also like to thank the research confederates (i.e., the paid actors and actresses) who recorded the feedback videos for this experiment.


This work was funded by the Australian Research Council (DP160100459) and the University of New South Wales internal funds. The funding sources were not involved in the implementation of the research project.

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Correspondence to Francesca R. Luberti.

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This research project was approved by the UNSW Human Research Ethics Committee. Approval Number HC17518. All procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All participants provided informed consent before taking part in this research.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Luberti, F.R., Blake, K.R. & Brooks, R.C. Changes in Positive Affect Due to Popularity in an Experimental Dating Context Influence Some of Men’s, but Not Women’s, Socio-Political Attitudes. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology 8, 202–237 (2022).

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