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Women’s Sensitivity to Men’s Past Relationships: Reliable Information Use for Mate-Choice Copying in Humans

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Mate-choice copying is a phenomenon whereby females assess the mate quality of males based on the mating decisions of other females. Previous studies demonstrated that the presence of a partner enhanced men’s attractiveness. Mate assessment is, however, error-prone, and the accepted male may turn out to be of poor quality after the relationship has progressed. This study extended the previous research by focusing on more reliable social information about male quality as a long-term partner: duration and interval of past relationships. Japanese female students (N = 201) were presented with a male profile containing information about past relationships, and they rated the target males as long- and short-term partners. The results confirm that information about a man’s long past relationship enhances the women’s desirability ratings for that man as a long-term partner. It was also found that a man with a long relationship was preferred by sexually inexperienced women, even in the short-term mating context, if the interval between the man’s past relationships was long. The study findings show that female mate choice is influenced by information about males’ past relationships, in addition to the information about male’s past partners discussed in previous studies. The finding for short-term mating suggests that it is used as a foothold for long-term relationships by females who may have lower mate value. The findings of this study add a new aspect to the non-independent mechanism of human mate choice.

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Data, Material, and/or Code Availability

All data and materials are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  1. The participants were predominantly under 22 years old (73%). All data obtained was used, and no participant was excluded because of their age.

  2. We chose the expression carefully so that a native Japanese speaker would think that the target male was single when they read the original Japanese text.


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We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Prof. Makoto Numazaki whose comments and suggestions were innumerably valuable throughout the course of our study.

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation was performed by Yoichi Amano. Data collection was performed by Yoichi Amano and Yoshinori Wakao. Analysis was performed by Yoichi Amano. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Yoichi Amano and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yoichi Amano.

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Ethics Approval

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. However, this study has not been granted ethics committee approval because the data were collected at a time when ethical review was not yet generally practiced in Japan. We are planning a follow-up study that uses the same experimental design and procedures except for the addition of an independent variable, and that study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan University (No. H3-35).

Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Consent to Publish

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Profile of Target Male

Here is a profile of a man. How do you think about “the same kind of man” as him? Based on your first impression, please provide your answers to the questions on the following pages. Please do not think about it too much.


Third-year student at tde four-year university (20 years old)


Father (46), Mother (44), Little brother (17)


He looks average, but he has a charming face.

Romantic experiences

He had been with his former partner for about 3 years and broke up with her about 11 months ago. He recently got a new partner. He had also been in a relationship with another woman before.

Favorite subject


Weak subject


Favorite TV show

Music, Sports

Favorite music

J-POP, Western music


Futsal, Listening to music


Futsal club

University life

He never misses a class that interests him. For other classes, he attends enough not to lose course credit. He is active in his club activities. During breaks, he often spends time with his clubmates.

Day off

On his days off, he works part-time or goes out with his friends or girlfriend. Sometimes he goes to play futsal. When he doesn’t have any plan, he spends time relaxing at home listening to music.

Profile of Target Male (Original Japanese Version)

以下に, ある男性のプロフィールがあります. あなたは, このようなタイプの男性からどのような印象を受けますか. その印象をもとに次ページ以降の質問に回答してください. あまり深く考え込まずに第一印象で回答してください.


4年制大学の3年生 (20歳)


父 (46歳) ・母 (44歳) ・弟 (17歳) との4人暮らし。










音楽番組 スポーツ番組


J-POP 洋楽


フットサル 音楽鑑賞







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Amano, Y., Wakao, Y. Women’s Sensitivity to Men’s Past Relationships: Reliable Information Use for Mate-Choice Copying in Humans. Evolutionary Psychological Science 8, 107–119 (2022).

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