Skip to main content Accessibility help

Extending parasite-stress theory to variation in human mate preferences

  • Lisa M. DeBruine (a1), Anthony C. Little (a2) and Benedict C. Jones (a1)

In this commentary we suggest that Fincher & Thornhill's (F&T's) parasite-stress theory of social behaviors and attitudes can be extended to mating behaviors and preferences. We discuss evidence from prior correlational and experimental studies that support this claim. We also reanalyze data from two of those studies using F&T's new parasite stress measures.

Hide All
Brooks, R., Scott, I. M., Maklakov, A. A., Kasumovic, M. M., Clark, A. P. & Penton-Voak, I. S. (2011) National income inequality predicts women's preferences for masculinised faces better than health does. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278:810–12.
DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Crawford, J. R., Welling, L. L. M. & Little, A. C. (2010) The health of a nation predicts their mate preferences: Cross-cultural variation in women's preferences for masculinized male faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 277(1692):2405–10.
DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Crawford, J. R. & Welling, L. L. M. (2011) Further evidence for regional variation in women's masculinity preferences. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278(1707):813–14.
Folstad, I. & Karter, A. J. (1992) Parasites, bright males and the immunocompetence handicap. American Naturalist 139:603–22.
Gangestad, S. W. & Buss, D. M. (1993) Pathogen prevalence and human mate preferences. Ethology and Sociobiology 14:8996.
Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G. & Buss, D. M. (2006a) Evolutionary foundations of cultural variation: Evoked culture and mate preferences. Psychological Inquiry 17:7595.
Hamilton, W. D. & Zuk, M. (1982) Heritable true fitness and bright birds: A role for parasites? Science 218:384–87.
Lee, A. J. & Zietsch, B. P. (2011) Experimental evidence that women's mate preferences are directly influenced by cues of pathogen prevalence and resource scarcity. Biology Letters 7(6):892–95.
Little, A. C., DeBruine, L. M. & Jones, B. C. (2011) Exposure to visual cues of pathogen contagion changes preferences for masculinity and symmetry in opposite-sex faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 278:2032–39.
Low, B. S. (1990) Marriage systems and pathogen stress in human societies. American Zoologist 30:325–39.
Mortensen, C. R., Becker, D. V., Ackerman, J. M., Neuberg, S. L. & Kenrick, D. T. (2010) Infection breeds reticence: the effects of disease salience on self-perceptions of personality and behavioral avoidance tendencies. Psychological Science 21:440–47.
Rhodes, G., Chan, J., Zebrowitz, L. A. & Simmons, L. W. (2003) Does sexual dimorphism in human faces signal health? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270:S93S95.
Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S. W. (1999) Facial attractiveness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 3:452–60.
Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S. W. (2006) Facial sexual dimorphism, developmental stability and susceptibility to disease in men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior 27:131–44.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed