Fincher CL, DeBruine LM, Watkins CD, Little AC & Jones BC (2013). Experimental tests of mate preferences predict real-world mate choice. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in Amsterdam, Netherlands. March 2013.


Here we investigated the relationship between mate preferences measured in the laboratory and actual mate choices. These data have relevance for theories of the evolution of human mate choice and are important for the interpretation of previous research using lab-based measures of mate preferences.


In a sample of heterosexual romantic couples, we assessed men’s and women’s preferences for exaggerated sex-typical shape characteristics (i.e., male masculinity and female femininity) in the faces of hypothetical mates in both long-term and short-term relationship contexts. We also assessed the sex-typicality of each partner’s own face shape.


For both men and women, the sex-typicality of their partner’s face was positively correlated with their preference for exaggerated sex-typical face shapes in long-term, but not short-term, relationship contexts. Also, the extent to which women preferred masculine faces more in short-term than long-term contexts was negatively correlated with their partners’ masculinity.


Our findings reveal direct links between experimentally assessed mate preferences and actual mate choices. Additionally, our findings are consistent with theories predicting that contextual effects on women’s mate preferences are contingent on the physical characteristics of their current mate. Together, these findings suggest that actual mate choices are reflected in experimentally measured face preferences and provide evidence to support theories of the function and evolution of human mate choice.

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.