Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 186–198 | Cite as

Environmental Safety Threat Alters Mate Choice Processes in Humans: Further Evidence for the Environmental Security Hypothesis

  • Simon D. Reeve
  • Justin K. Mogilski
  • Lisa L. M. WellingEmail author
Research Article


The Environmental Security Hypothesis (ESH) proposes that an individual’s mate preferences should shift depending on how secure they perceive their surroundings to be. Here, we extend previous work by leading participants to believe they would be required to handle either a snake (threat condition) or tame rabbit (control condition) and measuring various aspects of mate selection. People in the threat condition reported a greater preference for bodies with a higher proportion of muscle versus fat. Women in the threat condition, but not men, reported a greater preference for more masculine-shaped faces and lower self-perceived mate value. Men in the threat condition, but not women, reported a significantly lower preference for Status-Resources and Warmth-Trustworthiness partner traits, and lower self-perceived social status. Finally, although we did not fully replicate previous findings with respect to short-term mating interest in women, men in the threat condition reported both a more favorable attitude towards short-term mating and a less favorable attitude towards long-term mating. Results are interpreted in line with a context-flexible view of psychological adaptations influencing human mate selection processes.


Environmental Security Hypothesis Fear Threat Snake Mate preference Mate value 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

40806_2018_177_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 4.16 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon D. Reeve
    • 1
  • Justin K. Mogilski
    • 1
  • Lisa L. M. Welling
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

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