C Fisher, CL Fincher, AC Little, LM DeBruine & BC Jones (2013). Assortative mating for weight is not due to assortative preferences. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in Amsterdam, Netherlands. March 2013.

Objective

Assortative mating for weight, whereby romantic partnersí weights tend to be positively correlated, has implications for population health because of the combined effects of partnersí weights on fertility and/or offspring health. Although assortative preferences for cues of weight, whereby leaner people are inherently more attracted to leaner individuals, have been proposed as a contributing factor in assortative mating for weight, there have been no direct tests of this issue. Because of this, and because of recent work suggesting that facial cues of weight convey information about othersí health that may be particularly important for mate preferences, we directly tested the contribution of assortative preferences for cues of weight in opposite-sex faces.

Methods

We assessed the strength of romantic couplesí preferences for cues of weight in opposite-sex faces and measured their own body mass index (BMI).

Results

Romantic partnersí BMIs were positively correlated and this correlation was not due to the possible effects of age or relationship duration. Additionally, men and women with heavier partners showed weaker preferences for cues of low weight in opposite-sex faces. However, controlling for these preferences did not weaken the correlation between romantic partnersí BMIs. Further analyses showed that this was because own BMI and preferences were uncorrelated.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that preferences for cues of weight in opposite-sex faces predict the weight of menís and womenís actual romantic partners. However, our results also show that assortative preferences for facial cues of weight contribute little (if at all) to assortative mating for weight, at least in this sample. Thus, our data suggest that assortative mating for weight is more likely to be due to the additional constraints on heavier individualsí mate choices, rather than individual differences in mate preferences.

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