The value of different mate choices may depend on the local pathogen ecology and on personal infection susceptibility: when there is a high risk of infection, choosing a healthy or immunocompetent mate may be particularly important. Frequency of childhood illness may act as a cue of the ecological and immunological factors relevant to mate preferences. Consistent with this proposal, we found that childhood illness, and frequency of diarrhea in particular, was positively correlated with preferences for exaggerated sex-typical characteristics in opposite-sex, but not same-sex, faces. Moreover, this relationship was stronger among individuals with poorer current health. These data suggest that childhood illness may play a role in calibrating adult mate preferences and have implications for theories of disease-avoidance psychology, life-history strategy and cross-cultural differences in mate preferences.
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