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Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures

  • David M. Buss (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 February 2010

Contemporary mate preferences can provide important clues to human reproductive history. Little is known about which characteristics people value in potential mates. Five predictions were made about sex differences in human mate preferences based on evolutionary conceptions of parental investment, sexual selection, human reproductive capacity, and sexual asymmetries regarding certainty of paternity versus maternity. The predictions centered on how each sex valued earning capacity, ambition— industriousness, youth, physical attractiveness, and chastity. Predictions were tested in data from 37 samples drawn from 33 countries located on six continents and five islands (total N = 10,047). For 27 countries, demographic data on actual age at marriage provided a validity check on questionnaire data. Females were found to value cues to resource acquisition in potential mates more highly than males. Characteristics signaling reproductive capacity were valued more by males than by females. These sex differences may reflect different evolutionary selection pressures on human males and females; they provide powerful cross-cultural evidence of current sex differences in reproductive strategies. Discussion focuses on proximate mechanisms underlying mate preferences, consequences for human intrasexual competition, and the limitations of this study.

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