Little AC, Jones BC, DeBruine LM & Caldwell CC (2009). Bias in social learning of attractiveness in humans: learning is biased towards older and more popular individuals. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in St Andrews, Scotland. April 2009.

Social information is available from many individuals. As people differ in their expertise it may be most beneficial to learn only from certain individuals. We might then expect bias in social learning. For example, in fish species younger females are more likely to copy the mate choice of older females. As older females have more experience this may be an adaptive learning strategy. We tested for bias in social learning of attractiveness in humans. Here we show that for women, pairing a photo of a man with a woman presented as his partner positively influences the attractiveness of the man when the woman is presented as older/more popular as compared to when the woman is presented as younger/less popular. Additionally, we found that the age of the female participant influenced their tendency to be influenced by the age of the woman in the photo. Older participants were less influenced than younger participants. Our data suggests bias in social learning whereby women copy the mate choice of older and more popular other women and that older women are less likely to learn from the choices of other older women. These results may then indicate a sophisticated bias in social learning whereby individuals copy the choices of those with most access to information and/or prestige. As older individuals possess their own information on partner quality, our data may also suggest that individuals moderate who they learn from based on their relative level of knowledge.

Disclaimer: The information found and the views expressed in these homepages are not the responsibility of the University of Glasgow nor do they reflect institutional policy.