Evolutionary Understanding of Physical Attraction and Mate Selection
Overall Analysis of Preferences Effect
Factors Influencing Mate Choices
Evolutionary Understanding of Physical Attraction and Mate Selection
What factors would usually drive a person to prefer one person as a mate, to another? Are there any observable differences between the mate selection strategies employed by men, and those employed by women? A number of theories have been put forward to provide answers to these questions. Buss and Barnes (1986), while making specific reference to the Evolutionary Theory, posit that the qualities women look for in a potential mate differ considerably from those that men look for. These differences, they suggest, manly accrue from the biological systemic differences between men and women, as well as the common belief that women age faster than men.
Women's fertility has been observed to decrease with age, and owing to this fact, men would often place substantial importance on the quality of youth when making their mate selection choices. On the other hand, women commit a significant chunk of their time and financial resources, first in gestation and infant-nursing, and then in child rearing, and would, naturally, prefer men with the willingness and ability to provide resources for them. Yilmaz, Gungor and Celik (2013) express that mate selection choices and preference attitudes are greatly influenced by psychological, situational, demographic and environmental factors and that the consideration of these "could contribute to studies related to before and after marriage" (p. 425). To this end, the relevance of gaining enhanced understanding of the influence of these factors on mate selection strategies cannot be overstated.
The objective of this text, therefore, remains;
1. Investigate on a per-gender basis, the extent to which financial stability influences mate selection.
2. Investigate on a per-gender basis, the extent to which physical attractiveness influences mate selection.
3. Provide new and valuable information to future studies on marriage and relationships.
So as to explore the objectives mentioned above, the text will embrace the following hypotheses;
The extent, by gender, to which financial stability influences mate selection strategies
H1. Women, more than men, will seek partners with resources
The extent, by gender, to which physical attractiveness influences mate selection strategies
H2. Men, more than women, will seek physically attractive partners
This study was conducted by administering surveys to 10 respondents, all of whom are members of either the non-teaching or the student fraternity at DePaul University.
The limitations of this study include:
1. Use of a self-structured survey sheet that fell short of the SERQUAL standards
2. Use of convenience sampling, rather than random sampling, which is advocated for in empirical studies such as this
2.0. LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Financial Stability
Hancock (2000) refers to modern society as one notorious for trying to find "the ideals of potential parental investment." The author posits that, compared to animals, human beings are vulnerable for longer periods of time, and it is only natural that those born to parents with adequate provision abilities stand the best chances of, not only survival, but success. Tramm and Servedio (2008) and Buss and Barnes (1986) express that although both men and women incorporate the potential parental investment factor into their mate selection decisions; women have instincts towards the same, and therefore consider financial stability perhaps the most important factor in mate selection.
Tramm and Servedio (2008), Buss and Barnes (1986) and Kille, Forest and Wood (2013) suggest that biological systemic differences between men and women could be responsible for this phenomenon. According to Kille, Forest and Wood (2013), women may attach significance importance to financial stability because, unlike men, who are able to reproduce faster, and with different partners, they can only reproduce once every nine months, and are, therefore, forced to choose the most ideal parental investment option for a mate. Tramm and Servedio (2008) take this concept a notch higher and introduce the 'sense of motherhood' factor, positing that women would base their decisions on a potential mate's ability to offer the best, in form of financial necessity, to an offspring. Hancock (2002) holds that most Midwestern women would settle for a mate who belongs to either the same, or a higher social class than them, whom they would use to improve their own social status - because women, more than men, focus more on the future than the present.
The concept of financial stability, and how much it influences women's mate selection decisions has been brought under scrutiny in recent years, with many questioning its relevance, more so now that women are becoming more self-sufficient and able to respond to their financial needs by their own means (Kille Forest and Wood, 2013). Cowan and Kinder (1985) express that the trend is not subject to change, despite more women pursuing higher education, taking up more demanding managerial roles, and such. In a research study whose findings follow the pattern, Dr. Connell Cowan and Dr. Melvyn Kinder assert that, single women would, regardless of their degree of achievements, still be subject to pressure to marry from the same social class, as classes strive to maintain 'isolated habitation'.
Kille, Forest and Wood (2013) disagree with Cowan and Kinder's findings, expressing that the things women looked for in a mate in the past are not the same ones they look for today. In their opinion, the days when women viewed men as a catapult to financial security and higher status are long gone, and the definitions of 'marrying up' have undergone drastic change. In their article in the Psychological Science Journal, Kille, Forest and Wood (2013) opine that women are now going out of their way to find men with whom they share valuable interests. Cobb, Larson, and Watson (2003) put it that marriage and relationships are no longer about a Rockefeller 'Mr. Right', but about compatibility.
2.2 Physical Attractiveness
Geary, Vigil and Byrd-Craven (2013) postulate that romance novels and classical literature have a tendency to portray the male antagonist as handsome, wealthy and socially dominant; no wonder "a preference for an attractive mate makes biological sense" (p. 32). According to Buss and Barnes (1986), the ancient belief that a handsome male sires a healthy and attractive offspring comes into play, substantially in the mate choices women make. Men, on the other hand, seek physically attractive mates for reasons of sexual pleasure, and for the 'goodwill' that comes with having a physically attractive woman as a mate (Buss & Barnes, 1986, Geary, vigil & Byrd-Craven, 2013, Rikowski & Grammer, 1999).
According to Buss and Barnes (1986), men link physical attractiveness to reproductive capability, and would, hence, "prefer women most at the age of reproductive capability" (p. 570). The implication, the authors express, is that men would often correlate the cues of physical attractiveness with female health quality, and, hence, reproductive value.
A second theme arises from the fact that a number of studies have revealed that the degree of significance an individual places on a potential mate's physical attractiveness is highly dependent on their own level of physical attractiveness (Geary, Vigil & Byrd-Craven, 2013). Montoya (2008) supports this pattern and holds that "individuals tend to mate with others of similar levels of physical attractiveness" (p. 1315).
Buss and Barnes (1986) express that, despite this observation, a majority of objectively unattractive individuals would "rate their partner as 'attractive'" or even "very attractive.'" This brings forth the question of "how is it that unattractive individuals and up mating with partners who are similarly unattractive, but who they believe to be attractive" (Montoya, 2008, p. 1315)? Rikowski & Grammer (1999) put this into perspective by analyzing it as the most profound weakness of most mate selection models. While alluding to the popular 'beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder' phrase, the authors assert that mate selection models fail to recognize the concept of subjective judgment, and assume that, just because one individual considers a person attractive, everyone else does.
A number of predictions can be derived from the literature enumerated in the preceding subsections;
1. Beauty standards in women are coherent to the age at which their reproductive capability is highest.
2. The correlation between male attractiveness and age is considerably weak.
3. Men would mostly prefer women at the age then they are reproductively capable.
4. Women who have a financially stable mate are deemed to have a more reproductively successful progeny than other women.
Of significance is that the two variables under study "are not inherently incompatible" (Buss & Barnes, 1986). The structural powerlessness theory and the reproductive investment theory converge at this point. Whereas the latter encourages parents to inculcate in their children the preference for mates who are reproductively capable, the former encourages them to have their female children look for mates who are, not only reproductively capable, but also able to support them to achieving the highest potential of their reproductive progeny (Buss & Barnes, 1986).
This research study ought to be viewed as a stepping stone…