Mate-choice copying in humans – are all the taken men good?

January 29, 2018, University of St Andrews
Social influence by condition. Credit: Street et al

A new study by researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, Durham, Exeter and Arizona State finds that men get an 'attractiveness boost' from being chosen by others – but so do abstract works of art.

The study, led by Dr. Kate Cross from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews, published in Scientific Reports today (29 January), casts doubt on the theory that evolution favoured who were attracted to other women's partners.

Mate-choice copying is a tendency to find potential partners more attractive when they have already been chosen as a partner by someone else. Many species of bird and fish show mate-choice copying, which helps females to select high-quality males as sexual partners and therefore provides an evolutionary advantage.

Some high-profile studies have appeared to show mate-choice copying in humans. The theory is that women are especially attracted to men who are already partnered because they can be assumed to be kind and faithful – which makes them 'good mates'. However, previous evidence has been thrown into question by the new study, which showed that women also copy the choices of others when asked about the attractiveness of other types of stimuli such as art.

Mate-choice copying in humans – are all the taken men good?
Credit: University of St Andrews

Dr. Cross, lead author of the study, said: "Women in our study found men's faces more attractive if other women had given that face high ratings. But the same goes for pictures of abstract artworks. Women appear to copy the mate preferences of other women, but this might simply be because humans have a general tendency to be influenced by the opinions of others."

The study also showed that including lesbian and bisexual women in the experiment didn't change the results – which suggests that women are influenced the same way, whether or not they view men as .

Joint author of the paper, Dr. Sally Street, Assistant Professor from the Department of Anthropology, Durham University, said: "Social influence affects every area of our lives, and this could include choice. But there isn't, at the moment, clear experimental evidence of a specialised mate-choice mechanism in humans."

When making judgements about attractiveness, it seems the opinions of other people matter, regardless of who, or what, is being judged.

Explore further: Why we desire partners who have had relationship experience

More information: Sally E. Street et al. Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-19770-8

Related Stories

Why we desire partners who have had relationship experience

June 26, 2017
Mate copying (sometimes called mate-choice copying) is where an individual is preferred as a future romantic partner simply because they have relationship experience.

Are looks more important than personality when choosing a man?

April 4, 2017
When mothers and their daughters have to choose potential partners, they do not look much further than skin deep. Mothers are not quite as picky though, and will choose a man who is only reasonably attractive for their daughters. ...

The color of attraction? Pink, researchers find

October 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Red-faced men are feeling flush with the revelation that women find rosy cheeks attractive.

Recommended for you

Suicide risk in abused teen girls linked to mother-daughter conflict

October 18, 2018
Teenage girls who were maltreated as children are more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts if the relationship with their mother is poor and the degree of conflict between the two of them high.

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

julianpenrod
3 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2018
In the se In the sense of looking for a mate who can be a good provider, going just by the face, for many, may be a matter of trying to discern that which is almost not there in a picture. People, then, might not trust themselves because there isn't much there to verify the person's nature. The opinion of others, then, becomes a means of ascertaining whether certain qualities are there without actually seeing them in action.
And this is the case with "modern art", also. So interesting that "abstract 'art'", a major branch of "modern art", is invoked here, rather than, say, "Old Masters". Much if not all abstract art involves something where no content is present. "Modern art" is a swindle in which garbage is passed off as "great" by gallery owners and "critics" and then sold to individuals who are only seeking an investment. There is nothing to see in "modern art", so many are guided only by what others say they see.
dudester
not rated yet Jan 31, 2018
"When making judgements about attractiveness, it seems the opinions of other people matter, regardless of who, or what, is being judged."

I haven't read the actual paper, but this article doesn't mention whether or not men were tested but specifically says lesbian and bisexual women were. I think in order to make the above statement, Dr. Cross should also have tested men.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.