The role of sexual and romantic attraction in human mate preferences

Scheller, M, de Sousa, A.A ORCID: 0000-0003-2379-3894, Brotto, L.A and Little, A.C (2024) 'The role of sexual and romantic attraction in human mate preferences.' The Journal of Sex Research, 61 (2). pp. 299-312. ISSN 0022-4499

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Sex differences in mate preferences are ubiquitous, having been evidenced across generations and cultures. Their prevalence and persistence have compellingly placed them in the evolutionarily adaptive context of sexual selection. However, the psycho-biological mechanisms contributing to their generation and main- tenance remain poorly understood. As such a mechanism, sexual attraction is assumed to guide interest, desire, and the affinity toward specific partner features. However, whether sexual attraction can indeed explain sex differences in partner preferences has not been explicitly tested. To better understand how sex and sexual attraction shape mate preferences in humans we assessed how partner preferences differed across the spectrum of sexual attraction in a sample of 479 individuals that identified as asexual, gray-sexual, demisexual or allosexual. We further tested whether romantic attraction predicted preference profiles better than sexual attraction. Our results show that sexual attraction accounts for highly replicable sex differences in mate preferences for high social status and financial prospects, conscientiousness, and intelligence; however, it does not account for the enhanced preference for physical attractiveness expressed by men, which persists even in individuals with low sexual attraction. Instead, sex differences in physical attractiveness preference are better explained by the degree of romantic attraction. Furthermore, effects of sexual attraction on sex differences in partner preferences were grounded in current rather than previous experiences of sexual attraction. Taken together, the results support the idea that contemporary sex differences in partner preferences are maintained by several psycho-biological mechanisms that evolved in conjunction, including not only sexual but also romantic attraction.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: School of Sciences
Research Centres and Groups: Psychology Research Centre for Health and Cognition
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Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2023 15:50
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2024 20:02
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