Environmental Influences on Mate Preferences as Assessed by a Scenario Manipulation Experiment


Marzoli D, Moretto F, Monti A, Tocci O, Roberts SC & Tommasi L (2013) Environmental Influences on Mate Preferences as Assessed by a Scenario Manipulation Experiment. PLoS ONE, 8 (9), Art. No.: e74282.

Many evolutionary psychology studies have addressed the topic of mate preferences, focusing particularly on gender and cultural differences. However, the extent to which situational and environmental variables might affect mate preferences has been comparatively neglected. We tested 288 participants in order to investigate the perceived relative importance of six traits of an ideal partner (wealth, dominance, intelligence, height, kindness, attractiveness) under four different hypothetical scenarios (status quo/nowadays, violence/post-nuclear, poverty/resource exhaustion, prosperity/global well-being). An equal number of participants (36 women, 36 men) was allotted to each scenario; each was asked to allocate 120 points across the six traits according to their perceived value. Overall, intelligence was the trait to which participants assigned most importance, followed by kindness and attractiveness, and then by wealth, dominance and height. Men appraised attractiveness as more valuable than women. Scenario strongly influenced the relative importance attributed to traits, the main finding being that wealth and dominance were more valued in the poverty and post-nuclear scenarios, respectively, compared to the other scenarios. Scenario manipulation generally had similar effects in both sexes, but women appeared particularly prone to trade off other traits for dominance in the violence scenario, and men particularly prone to trade off other traits for wealth in the poverty scenario. Our results are in line with other correlational studies of situational variables and mate preferences, and represent strong evidence of a causal relationship of environmental factors on specific mate preferences, corroborating the notion of an evolved plasticity to current ecological conditions. A control experiment seems to suggest that our scenarios can be considered as realistic descriptions of the intended ecological conditions.

PLoS ONE: Volume 8, Issue 9

Publication date30/09/2013
Date accepted by journal09/07/2013
PublisherPublic Library of Science