Skip to main content

Engagement Rings as Modern Commitment Cue

  • Reference work entry
  • First Online:
Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science


Diamond rings; Pledge to marry; Wedding rings


A ring that one partner gives to another when they become engaged to be married as a sign of their commitment.


It is a common practice for a man to buy a relatively expensive engagement ring, usually including a diamond, to give to his fiancée when they become engaged as a symbol of their commitment and impending marriage. Engagement rings are often donned for the mere intent to make public a couple’s relationship commitment, and the woman, specifically, is to wear an engagement ring to display that she is “taken” and out of the dating market (Schweingruber et al. 2008). There seems to be no sex difference placed on the importance of an engagement ring before marriage (Ogletree 2010).

Signaling Mate Quality

The practice of giving and wearing a ring can also communicate a kind of social achievement (Parsons 2008) such that an engaged person possesses certain desirable attributes such as stability or maturity...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions


  • Black, H., & Monteverde, K. (1975). Non-verbal communication and person perception: An empirical investigation. Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior, 12(1), 24–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brinig, M. F. (1990). Rings and promises. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 6, 203–215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Camerer, C. (1988). Gifts as economic signals and social symbols. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S180–S214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cronk, L., & Dunham, B. (2007). Amounts spent on engagement rings reflect aspects of male and female mate quality. Human Nature, 18, 329–333.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dugatkin, L. A. (2000). The imitation factor: Evolution beyond the gene. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunham, B. L. (2011). Applications of signaling theory to contemporary human courtship. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 72, 991.

    Google Scholar 

  • Francis-Tan, A., & Mialon, H. M. (2015). “A diamond is forever” and other fairy tales: The relationship between wedding expenses and marriage duration. Economic Inquiry, 53(4), 1919–1930.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaulin, S. J. C., & Boster, J. S. (1990). Dowry as female competition. American Anthropologist, 92, 994–1005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grammer, K. (1992). Variations on a theme: Age dependent mate selection in humans. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15, 100–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., Ackerman, J. M., Delton, A. W., Robertson, T. E., & White, A. E. (2012). The financial consequences of too many men: Sex ratio effects on saving, borrowing, and spending. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(1), 69–80.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haas, D. F., & Deseran, F. A. (1981). Trust and symbolic exchange. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44(1), 3–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, S. M., & Aung, T. (2016). Modern day female preferences for resources and provisioning by long-term mates. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 11(3), 242–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ogletree, S. M. (2010). With this ring, I thee wed: Relating gender and love styles to attitudes towards engagement rings. Gender Issues, 27, 67–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, K. (2008). Subverting the fellowship of the wedding ring. Journal of Social Philosophy, 39(3), 393–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pawłowski, B., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (1999). Impact of market value on human mate choice decisions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, 266, 281–285.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Rothman, E. (1987). Hands and hearts: A history of courtship in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schweingruber, D., Cast, A. D., & Anahita, S. (2008). ‘A story and a ring’: Audience judgments about engagement proposals. Sex Roles, 58(3–4), 165–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tushnet, R. (1998). Rules of engagement. Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 107 Yale L. J. 2583 (1997–1998).

    Google Scholar 

  • Uller, T., & Johansson, L. (2003). Human mate choice and the wedding ring effect: Are married men more attractive? Human Nature, 14, 267–276.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susan M Hughes .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Hughes, S.M. (2021). Engagement Rings as Modern Commitment Cue. In: Shackelford, T.K., Weekes-Shackelford, V.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics