An evolutionary approach to attractiveness judgments emphasises that many human trait preferences exist in order to assist adaptive mate choice. Here we test an adaptive development hypothesis, whereby voice pitch preferences indicating potential mate quality might arise or strengthen significantly during adolescence (when mate choice becomes adaptive). We used a longitudinal study of 250 adolescents to investigate changes in preference for voice pitch, a proposed marker of mate quality. We found significantly stronger preferences for lower-pitched opposite-sex voices in the older age group compared with the younger age group (using different sets of age-matched stimuli), and marginally increased preferences for lower-pitched opposite-sex voices comparing within-participant preferences for the same set of stimuli over the course of 1 year. We also found stability in individual differences in preferences across adolescence: controlling for age, the raters who had stronger preferences than their peers for lower-pitched voices when first tested, retained stronger preferences for lower-pitched voices relative to their peers about 1 year later. Adolescence provides a useful arena for evaluating adaptive hypotheses and testing the cues that might give rise to adaptive behaviour.
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