Mate-by-Numbers: Budget, Mating Context, and Sex Predict Preferences for Facial and Bodily Traits

  • Carin PerillouxEmail author
  • Jaime M. Cloud
Research Article


Unlike women, or men considering long-term mates, men pursuing short-term mating have shown a tendency to prioritize bodily information over facial information when assessing potential mates. Prior studies have documented this tendency across a variety of methods ranging from photograph ratings to forcing a choice between faces and bodies, but have yet to ask participants to prioritize individual traits in faces and bodies. The current study used a budget allocation method to do just that. We randomly assigned participants (N = 258) to a mating context (short-term or long-term) and a budget (high or low) and asked them to allocate points across 10 traits (five facial, five bodily) to design their ideal mate within their budget. As expected, men in the short-term mating context allocated more points to bodily traits, but only when in the low budget condition—in the high budget condition, men showed more interest in facial traits. Women, also as expected, and in contrast to men, showed a general trend toward favoring facial traits regardless of budget and condition. Overall, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that women’s bodies provide better information regarding immediate fertility and are thus more important for men to assess in short-term mating contexts.


Physical attractiveness Mate preferences Face Body Traits Evolution 



We would like to thank Gregory Webster for statistical advice and Taylar Boyer, Kaylee DeBolt, Jacob Dougherty, Aliehs Lee, Helena Lorenz, Cody Welty, and Justin White for their assistance with pilot-testing and data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthwestern UniversityGeorgetownUSA
  2. 2.Psychological Sciences DepartmentWestern Oregon UniversityMonmouthUSA

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