The Intersection

i-9d1b75cd54e387cfa60e7597544ffc57-mate selection3.JPGAccording to another groundbreaking study on mate selection, men prefer good looking women. Who knew? Wait didn’t I touch on this in May? And we ladies apparently are trading off our attractiveness for ‘higher quality men’ or whathaveyou. Really? Before I comment (deep breath), I’ll start with the research to be fair. Out of this week’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

While humans may pride themselves on being highly evolved, most still behave like the stereotypical Neanderthals when it comes to choosing a mate, according to research by Indiana University cognitive scientist Peter Todd. In a new study, Todd and colleagues found that though individuals may claim otherwise, beauty is the key ingredient for men while women, the much choosier of the sexes, leverage their looks for security and commitment.

What they’re suggesting is that we’re not all that different than lots of other mammals with selective ladies and competitive gentlemen. Fellers are choosing partners based on physical attractiveness and furthermore you guys aren’t all that particular. According to the study, men tend to select nearly every woman above a certain ‘minimum attractiveness threshold’ (and a male colleague of mine believes for many, said ‘minimum threshold’ may be synonymous with ‘breathing’, but I’ll refrain from exploring that here). We agree one take home message is that relative to girls, boys are easy. * pause for shock to set in to the sound of crickets chirping * As for the fairer sex, the study claims we adjust our expectations according to being aware of our own attractiveness. Ummm, okay…

[Women] knew what they could get and aimed for that level.

Shocking? No. Newsworthy? Of course. And while this beats reading yet another take on Senator Larry Craig’s recent faux pas, I’m not convinced. However, it is interesting this suggests women’s attractiveness influences everyone’s choices.

Okay, I’ve been more than patient, so time to turn this research on its head after the jump…

Allow me to point out that this study consisted of 46 participants from Munich, Germany. Sample size may be a bit small, no? I don’t have the details so it’s conjecture, but sounds to me like we’re talking about a single culture from one region and I somehow suspect social mores and cultural norms are also fairly significant in choosing a partner. Not to mention what rocks one person’s world might not move the earth so much for the next. The kind of generalizations here make me squirm in my seat.

Complicating matters is the fact that the research is terribly susceptible to bias because I’d expect that folks who volunteered are not necessarily reflective of the general population. That said, who is the general population anyway? And wouldn’t subjects in the survey automatically be more than slightly influenced by their very participation? I can wax poetic on this subject.

Thus, while the trends appear to be reasonable (if not obvious), I’m way past skeptical to accept the findings at face value. This world is full of all sorts of interesting people with varied tastes, experiences, and influences and yes we’re surely are a visual species, but I suspect there are countless subconscious cues concurrently involved in mate selection such as hormones, familiarity, vocal tone, smell, and on and on. And of course, all of this begs the question: For how long a period of time is one considering their potential partner? Certainly, one evening together would likely involve vastly different standards than those for a lifetime partnership.

Clearly, I’m wary of this kind of study, but what’s your take? As a critical and independent thinker, do you buy the PNAS story hook, line and sinker?

And as far as the research, sounds awfully similar to Good Charlotte’s conclusion as stated in Girls And Boys back in 2002:

Girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money
Boys will laugh at girls when they’re not funny
And these girls like these boys like these boys like these girls
The girls with the bodies like boys with Ferraris
Girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money

More on this (not-so) earth-shattering finding from Cognitive Daily, Galactic Interactions, and The Anterior Commissure.

Comments

  1. #1 Philip H.
    September 6, 2007

    Miss Sheril,
    Where do I begin? So much is made these days of attractiveness and attraction (in physics, monetary theory, theology) that I’m not surprised by such a study. Let’s face it, there is no more interesting human psychology question then how Person X and Person Y got together and made it work. Especially in our supposedly open and free culture, where relationships can (legally mind you) be discarded like so much used cellophane.

    So I’m not at all flummoxed by this work. Sure the sample size is small, but what sample size isn’t these days? And self-selecting? Probably, but unless the study’s authors publish the ads they used to get subjects, we’ll never know. I still think the basic conclusion is sound, and I’d rewrite it something like this – people make judgements about other people based on what physically attracts them. Period. Now if we just leave it there – if we acknowledge all the research that says men tend to be visual in picking potential mates, and women tend to be emotional/psychological, we haven’t learned anything new. We’ve just had it confirmed in a modern forum that’s all. That confirmation does come at a time when concepts of beauty, attractiveness, sexuality, and relationships are in more strident debate then ever, and I can certainly see the feminists lining up to pillary the authors (and probably me).

    And as to attractiveness, that is and will likely always be a subjective criteria, driven as much by culture and upbringing as anything else. I’m pretty sure I’m not attractive to women in many sub-Saharan tribes – I don’t own any cattle! At the same time though, my fiancee’ seems to think I’m the bee’s knees, so I’ll go with that!

    P.S. Why do we use “the bee’s knees” as a term of endearment anyway? have you ever looked at a bee’s knees?

  2. #2 Oliver
    September 6, 2007

    46 individuals from Munich? Well, one aspect you didn’t touch on is that you’ll find plenty of Germans willing to attest that the difference between Bavarians and Neanderthals is non-significant anyway ;)

  3. #3 Dunc
    September 6, 2007

    Given that this “research” was based on speed-dating, where the decisions were made on the basis of about 3 minutes conversation, I fail to see how they could have come up with any other result…

  4. #4 hilllady
    September 6, 2007

    P.S. Why do we use “the bee’s knees” as a term of endearment anyway? have you ever looked at a bee’s knees?

    Philip H., I’d say it’s not so much the looks as all the sweet nectar those knees, er, attract.

  5. #5 fergus
    September 6, 2007

    How depressing. After years of consciousness-raising and real signs of progress, we’re back to the notion that mate selection is what it’s all about. Many men and women don’t date ‘prospective mates’ – if anything, the exact opposite; whatever happened to the zipless f***? Mate selection is more about accident and circumstance than desire and dating. The whole thing is hooey. :)

  6. #6 Adam
    September 6, 2007

    I agree that the design of the study heavily favored the discovered conclusions. A few minutes is difficult to determine much about another person, except for the most superficial aspects. One the more interesting conclusions of the study was that men favored looks, regardless of their stated preferences.

    I suppose one way of looking at it is that the women asked questions relevant to their preferences, while men didn’t or didn’t believe the answers they got, instead falling back on simple looks.

    It would be more interesting to see a longer study done. I’d also like to see the group size expanded beyond college students with a psych major. Half of psychology seems to be based on the observations of psych majors.

  7. #7 John the Gnerphk
    September 6, 2007

    Right. *deep breath*

    So we’re discussing attraction with regard to a potential mate and/or mating situation. It seems evident that the study quoted is grossly flawed due to sample size and selection; moreover, by asking the appropriate questions, one could easily generate any answer desired. We need a new study, one based on results rather than on checkmarks on a questionairre.

    Since we have a varied sample here, let me ask you the reader: What did your parents find attractive in one another? After all, you ARE the results…

  8. #8 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 6, 2007

    Since we have a varied sample here, let me ask you the reader: What did your parents find attractive in one another? After all, you ARE the results…

    Great question John! You point out we’re the sum of the equation that this study attempts to ask. Or some semblance of a solution at least depending on chromosome exchange. I wonder what Razib over at Gene Expression would say…

  9. #9 agnostic
    September 6, 2007

    Speed dating = very short-term relationship. It’s not a matchmaking service to find brides. So, yeah duh, guys are going to value only looks.

    Oh, and I note for the record that Billie Joe Armstrong is only 5’7 — pretty boys and rockstars tend to be short (just search “pretty boys” or “rockstars” at gnxp.com for the data). Vonnegut was 6’1 or 6’2, but he’s not a performer or good-looking. I have no idea who the other dude is.

    I mention this to show why male variance tends to be greater than female variance — females are open to a wider range of “dream guys.” For males, it would be less likely to see a dream balloon going to a homely writer, on equal footing with another balloon going to Alicia Keys.

    So females are less picky in which traits get their attention, but they are more picky in their standards (your dream guys in the pic come from a wide background, but they are all leaders in their field).

  10. #10 Jeff Fecke
    September 6, 2007

    For males, it would be less likely to see a dream balloon going to a homely writer, on equal footing with another balloon going to Alicia Keys.

    Speak for yourself, bub. There is nothing — nothing — sexier than a woman who can write.

  11. #11 razib
    September 6, 2007

    Great question John! You point out we’re the sum of the equation that this study attempts to ask. Or some semblance of a solution at least depending on chromosome exchange. I wonder what Razib over at Gene Expression would say…

    assman makes an interesting point, this study looked at speed dating which is pretty unnatural (more guys probably wish it was more natural as it would increase their repetitions, increasing the chance of a ‘hit’).

    evolutionary anthropologists have their disputes about what the ‘modal’ human mating strategy is. e.g., geoff miller thinks that humans are natural polygynous & polyandry, at least to the point of serial monogamy. this explains to him the relative short timespan of biochemical attachments and pair ponds. he also points out that 50 year ‘marriages’ had a low probability of success when mortality rates were higher. in the mating mind he posits that most children was raised by their mothers and were in the presence of a variety of ‘boyfriends’ as they grew up. miller’s idea is that humans have a background rate of de nova mutations. these mutations are summed together as the genetic load of the population, or individually, the mutational load. the mutational load exhibits variance within the population (and amongst siblings). first, there is a sampling variance in regards to the deleterious lethals (masked) which you receive from your parents, and second everyone has a small number of de novo mutations that are new. both these of these will obviously vary from person to person. miller posits that there is a correlation between the mutational load and beauty or fitness, and the reproductive variance of males is how our species dumps the excess load and maintains an equilibrium of genetic health. in short, fugly dudes don’t reproduce. and female choosiness is the key to genetic health.

    that beings aid, many other anthropologists will argue that we are a monogamous species in a more thorough way. desmond morris is a major proponent of this (as well as a keen observer of the similarities between lips on the face and lips on the vagina, of course!). in any case, the major argues for this are the relative low sexual dimorphism of our species (sexual selection tends to increase betweens sex size difference) as well as instincts like ‘love’ and the reality that men also choose women based on characteristics. humans are atypical because males can be somewhat choosy, if less so. this suggests sexual selection upon females as well; so the dumping of mutational load can go both ways. in reality it seems in most societies males exhibit more reproductive variance females, that is, males have a lower chance of reproducing, but a higher median number of offspring when they do reproduce.

    but in any case, the original question was about looks and parents and offspring. so first, i have to say that beauty is a trait with multiple parameters or dimensions. e.g., there is the symmetry angle. there is the “exaggerated features” angle. there is the clear skin angle (blotchy skin = disease). there is the social condition angle (19th century chinese men = small feet are really hot). there is also the individual variation angle (we all have slightly different set points). with all that out of the way, i think some of the traits which result in beauty are obviously pretty heritable (e.g., if you have a parent with a low mutational load, your own load should be a bit lower in terms of expectation). but, since it is not totally heritable there is going to be regression to the mean. really hot parents are going to produce, on average, somewhat less hot offspring just because favorable genetic combinations and environmental factors might not line up perfect (also, the variance is de novo mutation is likely not heritable). what about fugly parents? there might be some regression back to the mean for several reasons. one could posit that there are higher miscarriage rates for the bad genetic combinations, so selection is weighting the die toward better looking offspring. the environment could be a lot better for whatever reason (nutrition, less disease).

    there is also the sexual selection angle insofar as assortative mating could result in correlations between traits which vary in attractiveness across populations. those of you know for example fisher’s model of ‘runaway selection.’ i doubt anything like this has happened in our species, but who knows? additionally, there are weird patterns regarding MHC. women tend to prefer men somewhat unlike them, but sometimes they do prefer the pattern of men who resemble their fathers. there is also evidence of psychological imprinting regarding the opposite sex parent. finally there is armand leroi’s idea that interracial offspring should beat expectation because they will mask more deleterious alleles (there are unlikely to be common recessives shared between races). i think this is generally an issue on the fugly end, those with low mutational load in the first place wouldn’t benefit (and there is the possibility of genetic incomptabilities).

    in any case, obviously we like to get with whoever is the most smokin’ that is within our league. i’ll leave the parameters that makes this possible up to your imagination.

  12. #12 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    September 6, 2007

    I note for the record that Billie Joe Armstrong is only 5’7 — pretty boys and rockstars tend to be short (just search “pretty boys” or “rockstars” at gnxp.com for the data). Vonnegut was 6’1 or 6’2, but he’s not a performer or good-looking. I have no idea who the other dude is.

    [DISCLAIMER: The third gentleman in question is Bear Grylls, who unlike the others, does NOT set my heart aflutter. He appears at a friend's suggestion because I hesitated posting Steve Irwin given this week marks the anniversary his death. As for Billie Joe and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., agnostic is correct that they are leaders. But more importantly, they are creative, independent thinkers who stand up to voice what they believe. And indeed, that's extremely attractive.]

  13. #13 6EQUJ5
    September 6, 2007

    We guys fall for a pretty face, and the ‘fall’ happens quickly, in an eyeblink. By the time the rest of his brain catches up, he may be musing about what it is that’s pretty about her, and never really be able to answer, since he’s only guessing.

    Also, every girl we see, we hope she’s pretty. I think we expect her to be pretty and hold onto that hope until we’re proven wrong. This explains why we may be interested in getting a closer look at that girl 300 yards away.

  14. #14 kate
    September 6, 2007

    actually, i’m not sure that your conclusion that “relative to girls, boys are easy” is entirely accurate, either.

    what the researchers seem to be conveying is their dataset – albeit with a small subject count, albeit with its cultural, socioeconomic, and demographic limitations – seems to be speaking to an inherent pattern of short-term mate selection that may be more unconscious that we seem to think. it’s not a matter of “ease” or of quick decisions, but a matter of gender-specific strategies that are most effective for wrangling a mate.

    undoubtedly (and with much research to support it), the characteristics that we use to choose long-term mates differ dramatically from those used to choose short-term mates, and you rightly pointed out that distinction in these findings. but humans are unique in that we are capable of forming – and frequently DO form – long-term relationships that are actually quite rare in the animal kingdom. some avians, penguins, and cute little prarie voles might pair-bond, but most monogamy in the animal kingdom is relative at best. so yes, this distinction is an important one.

    to your supposition that there are “countless subconscious cues concurrently involved in mate selection,” leading experts in the field (see eric keverne’s work) have argued that the mate selection in large-brained mammals (e.g. us) is increasingly divorced from hormonal regulation, and evidence for major olfactory and auditory roles in mate selection is paltry compared to the role of visual input. so in a way, this research shows that males may be more heavily reliant on visual info for making strategic mate selection choices, a reliance that they may not fess up to (i.e. “no no, it wasn’t JUST because of her looks”) but also, according to this research, are probably not even cognizant of. and that IS an intriguing finding.

    case in point, proof of the pudding, call it what you will – sometimes, silly-sounding science is less self-evident than you might realize.

  15. #15 razib
    September 6, 2007

    undoubtedly (and with much research to support it), the characteristics that we use to choose long-term mates differ dramatically from those used to choose short-term mates,

    here’s a hypothesis: there is a diff between short-term, medium-term and long-term. i would argue that sexual attraction and chemistry are pretty important for a long-term relationship, and that in some medium-term relationships after the initial glow and excitement of sexual novelty wears off people go their separate ways because they weren’t that intrinsically attracted to each other in the first place. anyway, this is all anecdotal from what i’ve seen….

    but the important point is that mating strategies are probably mixed & conditional. the problem with these studies is that they transform the facultative into obligate behavior.

  16. #16 jvarisco
    September 6, 2007

    It seems to me that the important part of the study was not so much the findings, but the fact that they differed so much from the stated preferences. If the causes are cultural rather than biological (I realize this is a bad distinction, but to simplify) I don’t see why they would claim otherwise. Basically, it seems like these men believe they take other things into account, but in reality don’t. Of course on the other hand it might simply be that a five minute speed round is not enough to gauge anything more than physical attractiveness, so they put people down simply to get to know them better before making a decision. I’m curious what would happen if the men were asked to rank the women; would they rate the most attractive ones highest, or the ones above their threshold who seemed likely to fit other criteria?

  17. #17 kate
    September 6, 2007

    a bit more antecdotal evidence, w/ some slap-dash science…

    yes, relationships of various lengths are certainly different on a number of psychological, biological, and sociocultural levels. but if we’re talking hormonal regulation, i’d also posit that, in humans, hormones may play larger role in establishing long-term relationships rather than short-term “chemical” attraction. your hypothesis may be very right.

    so, as far as short-term relationships, there are studies that suggest that the “sexiness” of a male’s photo is positively associated with the “sexiness” of his body odor (ew, but true) in females blind to whose photo belongs to whose odor. but this isn’t the chemosensory attraction that we’re talking about in small rodents. take a look at the relative size of our olfactory bulbs or nearly vestigial vomeronasal organ compared to theirs. of course, humans release pheromones that have documented physiological effects (e.g. coordination of females’ menstrual cycles). but, i’m not so sure that some puny little pheromones can trump our powerful sociocultural influences and, potentially, speed-dating-induced stress in “casual encounters.” whereas, in long-term relationships, the neuroactive peptide oxytocin plays a pretty important role in establishing long-term bonds, whether it be between a mother and her young or between reproductive partners (again, this depends on the species).

    so, i suppose it’s important to recognize that the initial “spark” or chemistry that people feel upon first meeting someone may not actually be chemistry at all. who knows what it is. these researchers seem to think that it may boil down to attractiveness. i suggest part of that may be facial attractiveness. foxnews (who posted an explanatory picture of victoria’s secret models) seems to think that it’s also physical attractiveness, and i’d probably be inclined to agree with them, too.

    like razib, i imagine the real truth is some combination of physiological/biological components (i.e. hormones, chemosensory cues, etc) and social/cultural/psychological components. sadly, there’s few good ways to disentangle these components without being overly reductionistic.

    you’re absolutely right in that mating strategies of males and females are both mixed and conditional. i’d add that the factors contributing to short- and long-term relationships assuredly are, as well.

  18. #18 Pete
    September 6, 2007

    sheril – the answer to your first question is obviously the photo below the question mark ;)

    jeff fecke – this woman can write as good as vonnegut and supposedly plays in a band. and she’s funny and cute as anything. i think i’m in love….

  19. #19 razib
    September 6, 2007

    but, i’m not so sure that some puny little pheromones can trump our powerful sociocultural influences and, potentially, speed-dating-induced stress in “casual encounters.”

    well, lee alan dugatkin has done some studies with guppies which show the impact of peer opinion. the study basically showed a female guppy a ‘dummy’ female guppy (it was not a real guppy) getting all excited about a less-than-attractive male (usually less vibrant coloring). dugatkin showed that the interests of other females can spark interest of the observing female, but only to a certain point. if the male is “splotchy” enough all the peer pressure in the world doesn’t effect female interest, they just aren’t down with that.

  20. #20 razib
    September 6, 2007

    whereas, in long-term relationships, the neuroactive peptide oxytocin plays a pretty important role in establishing long-term bonds

    catch me up on how long those bonds last. my recollection is that these biochemical attachments have a half-life on the order of 3-4 years. since men and women both change their biochemistry as they age my understanding is that the key to a good long-long term relationship is being able to switch seamlessly from foci to foci of a relationship (this would vary from couple to couple contingent upon biochemistry).

  21. #21 A Woman Ignored By The Science
    September 6, 2007

    Sheril,

    I’m appreciative you mock this ridiculous study. I’d also like to point out they take no consideration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered preferences in this article. As a bisexual woman, I can assure everyone that many different factors come into play in attractiveness to both sexes. While personally I prefer not to label myself, this supposed research is frustrating and I certainly hope my tax dollars don’t fund it. I regularly read your blog and do not comment, but this topic speaks to the overwhelming neglect of diversity in the standard academic mindset and elsewhere.

    In good-natured fun, I completely agree with Pete that you’re very cute and more importantly you bring needed life and flavor to the traditional science.

  22. #22 razib
    September 6, 2007

    though individuals may claim otherwise

    btw, i’m a little mystified that anyone really lends credence to what people say about things like this. humans are great fabulists, and we make up rationales for a lot of our behavior, especially when it is mixed up with our “lower” impulses. there’s some literature which suggests that white women discriminate very strongly against non-white males on online dating sites (white men far less against non-white females). most individuals don’t consider themselves racist, and would surely give different reasons than “his eyes were too slanty” or “his skin was too dark.” whether this dynamic is, or isn’t, racist, it’s there and it’s real. everyone is against lying, cheating or stabbing other people in the back in theory, but these vices are pretty ubiquitous (though we try to be on our best behavior). similarly, there are socially acceptable reasons to date someone and not date someone. if someone is jewish and says they only date jews that is probably on the “acceptable” side of what you can assert. but if somone is white and they say they only date whites then it’s probably going to make people a bit nervous. but the difference between the two is more theoretical than real, there are plenty of people who exhibit a strong preference for their own race just as there are plenty who exhibit a strong preference for their own religion, but the former is taboo to express out loud (at least if you are white) while the latter is far less so.

  23. #23 Heidi
    September 6, 2007

    I wonder how those women would gauge their beauty with a culture that has different ideas of both female and male beauty and then make a choice. Hmmm.

  24. #24 Ed
    September 6, 2007

    What’s the big deal? We are, each of us, the way we are due to millions of years of evolution.

    Every living thing on this planet exists for one purpose (and has done so since the beginning of life) to procreate for the preservation of species and self.

    We are attracted to specific people because millions of years of evolution is telling us it’s the right thing to do. “Yes! I could connect with this person!”. And the maths alone with respect to sperm and egg generation rates, provide a hint that the two sexes will not pursue their mates in the same manner.

    Consider homosexuality in the above study – how does that work? Not much chance for procreation there, but it does tend to reflect the diversity of evolution and natural selection.

    It’s the same with fatty foods. All that evolution tells us to gorge when we can (never know when the next chance may be) and rest given the opportunity. This has manifested itself into the modern-day couch potato.

    Isn’t it a bit redundant to ask, “Why?” After all, the best answer is also the simplest, “Because.”

    PS – Nice photo. Want to take a ride in my Ferrari?

  25. #25 rhetor
    September 6, 2007

    I would still see some key issues in this study about “mate selection” even if it were set up with lots of people from a variety of reasons. I hate to split hairs here though it does depend on how you define mate? In a biological sense copulation is synonymous with creating offspring. Though humans have certainly separated the act from the affect. It sounds silly but I would exclude intercourse, with a condom, while the female is on birth control, as mating. And would much more likely say that marrying with the plan to raise a family is what really qualifies.

    Simply put if you were to pose the questions “who would you like to have sex with” vs “who would you like to have children with” you are going to get some very different answers. And the behavior of the subjects in your research will likely differ.

  26. #26 agnostic
    September 6, 2007

    Re: Bear Grylls, I don’t like criticizing female’s mate preferences on their blogs, since it seems like I’m just slandering dream guys who aren’t like me. But now that you say it wasn’t your idea, I admit he seemed out of place.

    And re: “they are creative, independent thinkers who stand up to voice what they believe.” Translation: they are not wimps! It’s funny — the male-typical profile for the personality trait Extraversion is that we tend to be more introverted, but with two exceptions: we tend to score higher than females on the sub-factors Dominance and Novelty-Seeking. So don’t worry, introverted guys.

    Jeff — I said men are less likely than women to consider homely writers “dream dates / spouses.” Your single data-point does not contradict what I said. It’s pretty easy to read the biographies of writers and see whether the male ones or female ones had a larger amount of eager groupies. Same goes for female vs. male politicians — go to DC in the summer and see which get hit on more by their 20 year-old interns.

  27. #27 Jason Malloy
    September 6, 2007

    Uh, 46 people? Only 20 women? For PNAS?

    This dataset looks laughably amateur when there are other recently analyzed speed-dating (and related) datasets with literally 1000s of people. Here is a speed-dating study from last year (PDF):

    “We have data on approximately 1800 women and 1800 men who participated to 84 speed dating events (or markets) organised between January 2004 and October 2005″

    This paper found women were definitely more choosy:

    Striking gender differentials in proposal behaviour are observed in the data. As emerged in many previous psychological studies [Trivers 1972], women are much choosier than men. On average, women choose 2.6 men and see 45 percent of their proposals matched, while men propose to 5 women and their proposals are matched in only 20 percent of the cases. About 36 percent of men and 11 percent of women do not get any proposal…

    And here’s an even larger (and IMO more interesting) study from last year focusing on preferences through an online dating network (PDF):

    “Our analysis is based on a data set that contains detailed information on the attributes and online activities of approximately 22,000 users in two major U.S. cities.”

    Again, females more choosy:

    Note that men appear much more receptive to first-contact e-mails than women. The median man (in terms of photo attractiveness) can expect to hear back from the median woman with an approximately 35% chance, whereas the median woman can expect to get a reply with a more than 60% chance. Figure 4.2 also provides evidence that more attractive men and women are “pickier.”

    Also, more status domains were important to women than men, such as income and occupation:

    “Our revealed preference estimates corroborate several salient findings of the stated preference literature. For example, while physical attractiveness is important to both genders, women… place about twice as much weight on income than men.”

    While men could compensate for ugliness with more money, women couldn’t compensate for less attractiveness at all.

    Finally, yet another speed dating sample from last year with a sample size of 400 found the same things among college students (PDF):

    “Women put greater weight on the intelligence [As measured by SAT score] and the race of partner, while men respond more to physical attractiveness.”

  28. #28 Flummoxed
    September 7, 2007

    Sure the sample size is small, but what sample size isn’t these days?

    Huh? Do you live in on alternative post- apocalypse world where there are very few people left? In my world, the answer to your question is: those in the well-designed experiments. Look! There are lot’s of them in the journals (some of them really quite cool).

  29. #29 MartinC
    September 7, 2007

    I personally believe I go for women who are good at maps.
    Just in case I need to find the Eye-Rack, such as.

  30. #30 cm
    September 7, 2007

    And of course, all of this begs the question: For how long a period of time is one considering their potential partner?

    Please be aware of the “begs the question” misuse and consider expunging this from your speech and writing.

  31. #31 Randy Olson, Head Dodo
    September 7, 2007

    This study goes well with the one that shows 50% of American males rate themselves in the top 5% for physical fitness and physique. Guys are just so smart.

  32. #32 Susan
    September 8, 2007

    I’ve often wondered if the so-called choosiness of women has to do with the fact that women tend to be smaller and weaker then men. (This is an average of course, I realize there are some big strong women out there) I’m always put off by guys who are overly aggressive. I’ve noticed that if a guy is being stalked by a girl, he tends to think of it as funny or cute. With a woman it’s a different story. Lets just say, if a dating situation goes wrong, the woman is more likely to suffer then the man. Also, men aren’t in danger of getting pregnant. Basically, women are choosier because they have more to lose then men.

    That being said, I think some hormone thing may come into play simply by the occassions, for me anyway, where I’ve been physically attracted to a guy but couldn’t stand his personality. It’s interesting that my body would send one signal, but my brain another.