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Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries With Greater Gender Equality?:

Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in... On average, women show stronger preferences for mates with good earning capacity than men do, while men show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than women do. Studies reporting that sex differences in mate preferences are smaller in countries with greater gender equality have been interpreted as evidence that these sex differences in mate preferences are caused by the different roles society imposes on men and women. Here, we attempted to replicate previously reported links between sex differences in mate preferences and country-level measures of gender inequality in a sample of 3,073 participants from 36 countries (data and code available at https://osf.io/4sr5f/). Although women preferred mates with good earning capacity more than men did and men preferred physically attractive mates more than women did, we found little evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality. Although one analysis suggested that the sex difference in preferences for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, this effect was not significant when controlling for Galton’s problem or when correcting for multiple comparisons. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences. Keywords sex differences, mate preferences, gender inequality, attractiveness, status Date received: January 16, 2019; Accepted: April 19, 2019 Sex differences in human mate preferences have been widely individual’s reproductive fitness (Buss et al., 1990; Buss & reported in the literature on human mating strategies. That Schmitt, 2018; Lippa, 2007). women tend to show stronger preferences for long-term mates Social role theory presents an alternative to this evolved with good earning capacity than men do, while men tend to preferences explanation for sex differences in preferences for show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than good earning capacity and physical attractiveness (Eagly & women do, is a particularly robust finding (see Buss & Schmitt, Wood, 1999). Under social role theory, these sex differences 2018, for a recent review). Indeed, similar sex-asymmetric are hypothesized to reflect the effects of the different social trade-offs between physical and socioeconomic characteristics roles imposed on men and women (Eagly & Wood, 1999). have been reported in actual partner choices. For example, Support for this account comes from reanalyses of early work women, but not men, are more likely to tolerate unattractive physical characteristics in a wealthier partner (Chiappori, Oref- fice, & Quintana-Domeque, 2012; but see Oreffice & Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom Quintana-Domeque, 2010). Since sex differences in these aspects of mate preferences have been reported for many dif- Corresponding Author: ferent cultures (Buss et al., 1990; Buss & Schmitt, 2018), some Benedict C. Jones, Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology, University of researchers have suggested they most likely reflect evolved Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Street, Glasgow G120NT, United Kingdom. preferences for the types of mates that will maximize an Email: ben.jones@glasgow.ac.uk Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 Evolutionary Psychology on sex differences in mate preferences (Buss et al., 1990) that In the trait-rating mate preference task, participants were suggested sex differences in preferences for good earning asked to rate the following attributes for how important they capacity and domestic skills (housekeeping and cooking), but are when choosing a romantic partner using a 4-point scale not physical attractiveness, were smaller in countries that (3 ¼ indispensable;2 ¼ important, but not indispensable;1 ¼ scored higher on United Nations’ measures of gender equality desirable, but not very important;0 ¼ irrelevant or unimpor- (Eagly & Wood, 1999). Although these results were partially tant): good cook and housekeeper; pleasing disposition; replicated by Zentner and Mitura (2012) and Kasser and sociability; similar educational background; refinement, neat- Sharma (1999), Gangestad, Haselton, and Buss (2006) sug- ness; good financial prospects; chastity (no previous experi- gested Eagly and Wood’s (1999) findings for gender inequality ence in sexual intercourse); dependable character; emotional were an artifact of “Galton’s problem” (i.e., autocorrelation stability and maturity; desire for home and children; favorable across geographically close regions). social status or rating; good looks; similar religious back- Given the controversy around the claim that sex differences ground; ambition and industriousness; similar political back- in mate preferences covary with country-level differences in ground; mutual attraction—love; good health; education and gender equality, we sought to replicate Eagly and Wood’s intelligence. The order in which traits were presented for (1999) results in a new data set. By contrast with Eagly and rating was fully randomized. Wood (1999), who used aggregated data to calculate sex dif- In the trait-ranking mate preference task, participants were ference scores at the country level, we used multilevel models asked to rank the following traits on their desirability in some- to analyze the mate preferences for individual participants (see one you might marry (1 ¼ most desirable trait,13 ¼ least Lee, DeBruine, & Jones, 2018; Pollet, Tybur, Frankenhuis, & desirable trait): kind and understanding, religious, exciting Rickard, 2014, for detailed discussion of why the latter personality, creative and artistic, good housekeeper, intelligent, approach is preferable because it takes into account variability good earning capacity, wants children, easygoing, good her- in preferences within each country). edity, college graduate, physically attractive, and healthy. The initial order in which the traits were presented for ranking was fully randomized. Trait rankings were reverse scored so that higher scores for a given trait indicated stronger preferences. Method Following Eagly and Wood (1999), we only analyzed pre- Participants ferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic skills. For the trait-rating task, these traits were A total of 5,399 participants completed one or more mate pre- operationalized as ratings for “good financial prospects,” ference tasks. Of these, 927 participants were removed from the “physically attractive,” and “good cook and housekeeper,” data set for either not reporting their age, reporting an age respectively (following Eagly & Wood, 1999). For the trait- below 16 years, or reporting an age above 60 years. A further ranking task, these traits were operationalized as rankings 1,212 participants were removed from the data set for not for “good earning capacity,” “good looking,” and “good reporting to be exclusively heterosexual. This resulted in a housekeeper,” respectively (also following Eagly & Wood, sample of 910 men and 2,350 women (mean age ¼ 23.90 1999). For the trait-rating task, 35 participants did not rate years, SD ¼ 7.82 years). Participants were not compensated all three traits and were therefore removed from the data set for taking part in the study. Each participant reported what prior to analyses. country they live in (number of countries ¼ 36; Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indone- Gender Equality Measures sia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Participants took part in the study between 2011 and 2018. New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Roma- Gender equality for each country was estimated using the nia, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index (GII) and Gender former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, United Development Index (GDI). The GII measures gender inequal- Kingdom, and the United States). ities in reproductive health (maternal mortality ratio and ado- lescent birth rates), empowerment (proportion of parliamentary Mate Preference Tasks seats occupied by females and proportion of adult females over Participants completed the trait-rating mate preference task 25 years with some secondary education), and economic status and/or the trait-ranking mate preference task originally used (labor market and force participation rate of female and male by Buss et al. (1990) and reanalyzed in Eagly and Wood populations over 15 years). The GDI measures gender differ- (1999). Five hundred thirteen participants completed only the ences in development of health, knowledge, and living stan- trait-ranking mate preference task, 93 participants completed dards using the same component indicators as the Human only the trait-rating mate preference task, with the remainder Development Index. These measures were chosen because of (N ¼ 2,654) completing both the trait-rating mate preference their similarity to the Gender Empowerment Measure and and the trait-ranking mate preference task. For participants who gender-related development index used in Eagly and Wood completed both tasks, task order was fully randomized. (1999) and because Eagly and Wood’s social roles theory Zhang et al. 3 Figure 1. Violin plots showing men’s and women’s preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic skills in potential mates as assessed by responses on the trait-rating (top row) and trait-ranking (bottom row) tasks. Rankings have been reverse scored so that higher scores on both tasks indicate stronger preferences. The thick horizontal bar indicates the median and x indicates the mean. emphasizes the importance of the combined effects of gender indicate greater equality. For each participant, the GII and GDI inequality in economic, political, and decision-making roles. scores used were matched to the year in which they partici- GII and GDI data were retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/ pated. Because GII and GDI scores were not available for 2018, data. Lower scores on the GII and higher scores on the GDI we used 2017 values for participants tested in 2018. 4 Evolutionary Psychology Table 1. Results of Tests for Interactions Between the Effects of Gender Equality and Participant Sex in Analyses Controlling for Galton’s Problem. Trait Gender Equality Measure Task Type Estimate tp Physical attractiveness GII Rating 0.13 1.67 .10 Physical attractiveness GII Ranking 0.48 1.90 .06 Physical attractiveness GDI Rating 0.09 0.82 .41 Physical attractiveness GDI Ranking 0.25 0.60 .55 Good earning capacity GII Rating 0.11 1.33 .19 Good earning capacity GII Ranking 0.64 2.09 .06 Good earning capacity GDI Rating 0.04 0.31 .76 Good earning capacity GDI Ranking 0.24 0.56 .58 Domestic skills GII Rating 0.14 1.73 .09 Domestic skills GII Ranking 0.08 0.35 .73 Domestic skills GDI Rating 0.05 0.36 .73 Domestic skills GDI Ranking 0.27 0.68 .50 Note.GII ¼ Gender Inequality Index; GDI ¼ Gender Development Index. stronger preferences for good earning capacity than men did Analysis for both ratings (estimate¼0.55, t¼11.16, p < .001) and Analyses were carried out using R Version 3.4.0. Preferences rankings (estimate ¼1.63, t ¼5.96, p ¼ .024). Men for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domes- showed stronger preferences for physical attractiveness than tic skills were analyzed in separate mixed-effect models, as women did for both ratings (estimate ¼ 0.42, t ¼ 9.25, p ¼ were preferences assessed using the trait-rating and trait- .003) and rankings (estimate ¼ 1.38, t ¼ 7.90, p ¼ .001). ranking tests. Analyses used linear mixed models with ran- There were no significant effects of participant sex on the dom effects of country and region, participant age and desirability of domestic skills in a potential mate for either participant sex as predictors, and random slopes specified ratings (estimate ¼ 0.02, t ¼ 0.52, p ¼ .63) or rankings (esti- maximally (see Barr, Levy, Scheepers, & Tily, 2013). Par- mate ¼ 0.22, t ¼ 1.40, p ¼ .26). Full results for each of these ticipant age was standardized at the participant level and models are given at https://osf.io/4sr5f/ both GII and GDI were standardized at the country level We repeated each of the models described above, this time prior to analyses. Participant sex was effect coded (female including either GII or GDI as additional predictors, along participants ¼.5, male participants ¼ .5). Following pre- with their two-way interactions with participant sex and par- vious research on differences in behavior among countries ticipant age. Of the 12 models testing for possible effects of (e.g., Lee et al., 2018), only responses from countries for gender inequality, none showed a significant (i.e., p <.05) which we had more than nine participants were analyzed. interaction between gender equality and participant sex (all This left us with a sample of 2,986 participants from 36 absolute estimates <0.65, all absolute ts<2.10,all ps >.051). countries for the ranking task and 2,524 participants from Full results for each of these models are given at https://osf.io/ 30 countries for the rating data. 4sr5f/. Results of tests for the critical interactions between the Following other recent work on differences in behavior effects of gender equality and participant sex are summarized among countries (Bulley & Pepper, 2017; Lee et al., 2018), in Table 1. Graphs showing each of these interactions are we controlled for autocorrelation across geographically close shown in Figure 2. regions (i.e., Galton’s problem) in follow-up analyses by Repeating these 12 tests for possible effects of gender equal- including the United Nation’s geographic region classification ity on mate preferences, this time with world region removed in our models (in addition to country). All data (including trait from our analyses (i.e., not controlling for Galton’s problem), ratings and rankings not analyzed here), analysis code, and the only altered results in one case (see https://osf.io/4sr5f/). This full specifications for each model are publicly available at exception was the analysis of good earning capacity assessed https://osf.io/4sr5f/ using the trait-ranking method, for which there was a signifi- cant interaction between participant sex and GII (estimate ¼ 0.65, t ¼2.30, p ¼ .027). Results We first tested for overall sex differences in preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic Discussion skills. Figure 1 summarizes men’s and women’s preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domes- Our analyses of sex differences in the desirability of physical tic skills in potential mates as assessed by responses on the attractiveness and good earning capacity in potential mates trait-rating and trait-ranking tasks. Descriptive statistics for replicate the sex differences reported in previous research (see each country are given at https://osf.io/4sr5f/. Women showed Buss & Schmitt, 2018, for a recent review). Specifically, we Zhang et al. 5 found that women (on average) reported stronger preferences for good earning capacity than men did, while men (on aver- age) reported stronger preferences for physical attractiveness than women did. These sex differences were strong, consistent across two methods for assessing mate preferences (responses on the trait-ranking and trait-rating tasks), and were present when controlling for variability in responses across countries and geographic regions. Collectively, these features of our analyses provide further evidence that robust sex differences in preferences for good earning capacity and physical attrac- tiveness of potential mates are relatively stable across geo- graphic regions. We found no evidence for sex differences in preferences for potential mates with domestic skills in our sample (see also Buss et al., 1990). Although we found the expected sex differences in prefer- ences for both physical attractiveness and good earning capacity, evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality was less convincing. We saw no evidence that the sex difference in preference for physical attractiveness was greater in countries with greater gender equality. One analysis suggested that the sex differ- ence in preference for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, but this was only observed for one combination of preference task and gender equality measure (responses on the trait-ranking method ana- lyzed in relation to GII). This effect was also not significant when we controlled for Galton’s problem and would not be significant if a was corrected for multiple comparisons. Thus, we cannot discount the possibility that this relationship is a false positive. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences. That we do not replicate previous results for gender inequal- ity and mate preference sex differences is unlikely to be due to our study being underpowered relative to previous studies. We tested 36 countries, which is a similar sample size to the 37 countries tested in two of the previous studies (Eagly & Wood, 1999; Kasser & Sharma, 1999) and a considerably larger sam- ple size than the 10 countries tested by Zentner and Mitura (2012). The null results in the current study also cannot be explained by the measures of gender inequality we employed. These are similar to those used in previous work on the topic that reported significant effects of gender inequality and, cru- cially, explicitly measure the combined effects of gender equality in economic, political, and decision-making roles that Eagly and Wood emphasized as being of critical impor- tance for their observed effects. Indeed, while Eagly and Wood stated that using gender equality measures from differ- ent years than the preference data were collected was a lim- Figure 2. Interactions between participant sex and gender equality itation of their study, we matched our gender equality measures for each combination of trait and rating task. Dots show measures to the year in which preference data were collected means and lines show SEM. Lower scores on the Gender Inequality (only substituting 2017 gender equality data for 2018 data Index and higher scores on the Gender Development Index indicate greater equality. because the 2018 data were not available). 6 Evolutionary Psychology Bulley, A., & Pepper, G. V. (2017). Cross-country relationships An important limitation of the current study (and of work on between life expectancy, intertemporal choice and age at first birth. this topic, generally) is that we assessed participants’ prefer- Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 652–658. ences for traits in potential mates rather than the traits their Buss, D. M., Abbott, M., Angleitner, A., Asherian, A., Biaggio, A., actual partners possessed. Although some research suggests Blanco-Villasenor, A., ... Kuo-Shu, Y. (1990). International pre- some aspects of mate preferences predict actual partner choices ferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of relatively well (see DeBruine et al., 2006, for a review), other Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 5–47. work suggests that for highly desirable traits, the ability to Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (2019). Mate preferences and their translate preferences into actual partner choices depends on behavioral manifestations. Annual Review of Psychology, 70, one’s own market value (Wincenciak et al., 2015). Whether 77–110. gender equality predicts sex differences in partner choices is Chiappori, P. A., Oreffice, S., & Quintana-Domeque, C. (2012). Fatter an open (and important) question. attraction: Anthropometric and socioeconomic matching on the In summary, we replicated previous reports that women (on marriage market. Journal of Political Economy, 120, 659–695. average) show stronger preferences for good earning capacity DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Boothroyd, L. G., Perrett, in potential mates than men do, while men (on average) show D. I., Penton-Voak, I. S., ... Tiddeman, B. P. (2006). Correlated stronger preferences for physical attractiveness in potential mates than women do. However, we did not replicate Eagly preferences for facial masculinity and ideal or actual partner’s and Wood’s (1999) finding that sex differences in preferences masculinity. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 273, for physical attractiveness and domestic skills are smaller in 1355–1360. countries with greater gender equality. We saw some evidence Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in that the sex difference in preference for good earning capacity human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. Amer- was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, but this ican Psychologist, 54, 408. effect was inconsistent across measures of mate preferences Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G., & Buss, D. M. (2006). Evolution- and gender equality, was not significant when controlling for ary foundations of cultural variation: Evoked culture and mate Galton’s problem, and would not be significant when a was preferences. Psychological Inquiry, 17, 75–95. corrected for multiple comparisons. Together, these results Kasser, T., & Sharma, Y. S. (1999). Reproductive freedom, educa- present little compelling evidence for the social role theory tional equality, and females’ preference for resource-acquisition of sex differences in mate preferences. characteristics in mates. Psychological Science, 10, 374–377. Lee, A. J., DeBruine, L. M., & Jones, B. C. (2018). Individual-specific Acknowledgment mortality is associated with how individuals evaluate future dis- The authors would like to thank David Schmitt for feedback on an counting decisions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285, earlier draft. Lippa, R. A. (2007). The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national Declaration of Conflicting Interests study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An exam- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to ination of biological and cultural influences. Archives of Sexual the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Behavior, 36, 193–208. Oreffice, S., & Quintana-Domeque, C. (2010). Anthropometry and Funding socioeconomics among couples: Evidence in the United States. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for Economics & Human Biology, 8, 373–384. the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This Pollet, T. V., Tybur, J. M., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Rickard, I. J. (2014). research was funded by an ERC grant to LMD (KINSHIP). Anthony What can cross-cultural correlations teach us about human nature? J. Lee has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Human Nature, 25, 410–429. research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska- Wincenciak, J., Fincher, C. L., Fisher, C. I., Hahn, A. C., Jones, B. C., Curie grant agreement No 705478. & DeBruine, L. M. (2015). Mate choice, mate preference, and ORCID iD biological markets: The relationship between partner choice and Benedict C. Jones https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7777-0220 health preference is modulated by women’s own attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36, 274–278. References Zentner, M., & Mitura, K. (2012). Stepping out of the caveman’s Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random shadow: Nations’ gender gap predicts degree of sex differentia- effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it max- tioninmatepreferences. Psychological Science, 23, imal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 255–278. 1176–1185. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Evolutionary Psychology SAGE

Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries With Greater Gender Equality?:

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Abstract

On average, women show stronger preferences for mates with good earning capacity than men do, while men show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than women do. Studies reporting that sex differences in mate preferences are smaller in countries with greater gender equality have been interpreted as evidence that these sex differences in mate preferences are caused by the different roles society imposes on men and women. Here, we attempted to replicate previously reported links between sex differences in mate preferences and country-level measures of gender inequality in a sample of 3,073 participants from 36 countries (data and code available at https://osf.io/4sr5f/). Although women preferred mates with good earning capacity more than men did and men preferred physically attractive mates more than women did, we found little evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality. Although one analysis suggested that the sex difference in preferences for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, this effect was not significant when controlling for Galton’s problem or when correcting for multiple comparisons. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences. Keywords sex differences, mate preferences, gender inequality, attractiveness, status Date received: January 16, 2019; Accepted: April 19, 2019 Sex differences in human mate preferences have been widely individual’s reproductive fitness (Buss et al., 1990; Buss & reported in the literature on human mating strategies. That Schmitt, 2018; Lippa, 2007). women tend to show stronger preferences for long-term mates Social role theory presents an alternative to this evolved with good earning capacity than men do, while men tend to preferences explanation for sex differences in preferences for show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than good earning capacity and physical attractiveness (Eagly & women do, is a particularly robust finding (see Buss & Schmitt, Wood, 1999). Under social role theory, these sex differences 2018, for a recent review). Indeed, similar sex-asymmetric are hypothesized to reflect the effects of the different social trade-offs between physical and socioeconomic characteristics roles imposed on men and women (Eagly & Wood, 1999). have been reported in actual partner choices. For example, Support for this account comes from reanalyses of early work women, but not men, are more likely to tolerate unattractive physical characteristics in a wealthier partner (Chiappori, Oref- fice, & Quintana-Domeque, 2012; but see Oreffice & Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom Quintana-Domeque, 2010). Since sex differences in these aspects of mate preferences have been reported for many dif- Corresponding Author: ferent cultures (Buss et al., 1990; Buss & Schmitt, 2018), some Benedict C. Jones, Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology, University of researchers have suggested they most likely reflect evolved Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Street, Glasgow G120NT, United Kingdom. preferences for the types of mates that will maximize an Email: ben.jones@glasgow.ac.uk Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 Evolutionary Psychology on sex differences in mate preferences (Buss et al., 1990) that In the trait-rating mate preference task, participants were suggested sex differences in preferences for good earning asked to rate the following attributes for how important they capacity and domestic skills (housekeeping and cooking), but are when choosing a romantic partner using a 4-point scale not physical attractiveness, were smaller in countries that (3 ¼ indispensable;2 ¼ important, but not indispensable;1 ¼ scored higher on United Nations’ measures of gender equality desirable, but not very important;0 ¼ irrelevant or unimpor- (Eagly & Wood, 1999). Although these results were partially tant): good cook and housekeeper; pleasing disposition; replicated by Zentner and Mitura (2012) and Kasser and sociability; similar educational background; refinement, neat- Sharma (1999), Gangestad, Haselton, and Buss (2006) sug- ness; good financial prospects; chastity (no previous experi- gested Eagly and Wood’s (1999) findings for gender inequality ence in sexual intercourse); dependable character; emotional were an artifact of “Galton’s problem” (i.e., autocorrelation stability and maturity; desire for home and children; favorable across geographically close regions). social status or rating; good looks; similar religious back- Given the controversy around the claim that sex differences ground; ambition and industriousness; similar political back- in mate preferences covary with country-level differences in ground; mutual attraction—love; good health; education and gender equality, we sought to replicate Eagly and Wood’s intelligence. The order in which traits were presented for (1999) results in a new data set. By contrast with Eagly and rating was fully randomized. Wood (1999), who used aggregated data to calculate sex dif- In the trait-ranking mate preference task, participants were ference scores at the country level, we used multilevel models asked to rank the following traits on their desirability in some- to analyze the mate preferences for individual participants (see one you might marry (1 ¼ most desirable trait,13 ¼ least Lee, DeBruine, & Jones, 2018; Pollet, Tybur, Frankenhuis, & desirable trait): kind and understanding, religious, exciting Rickard, 2014, for detailed discussion of why the latter personality, creative and artistic, good housekeeper, intelligent, approach is preferable because it takes into account variability good earning capacity, wants children, easygoing, good her- in preferences within each country). edity, college graduate, physically attractive, and healthy. The initial order in which the traits were presented for ranking was fully randomized. Trait rankings were reverse scored so that higher scores for a given trait indicated stronger preferences. Method Following Eagly and Wood (1999), we only analyzed pre- Participants ferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic skills. For the trait-rating task, these traits were A total of 5,399 participants completed one or more mate pre- operationalized as ratings for “good financial prospects,” ference tasks. Of these, 927 participants were removed from the “physically attractive,” and “good cook and housekeeper,” data set for either not reporting their age, reporting an age respectively (following Eagly & Wood, 1999). For the trait- below 16 years, or reporting an age above 60 years. A further ranking task, these traits were operationalized as rankings 1,212 participants were removed from the data set for not for “good earning capacity,” “good looking,” and “good reporting to be exclusively heterosexual. This resulted in a housekeeper,” respectively (also following Eagly & Wood, sample of 910 men and 2,350 women (mean age ¼ 23.90 1999). For the trait-rating task, 35 participants did not rate years, SD ¼ 7.82 years). Participants were not compensated all three traits and were therefore removed from the data set for taking part in the study. Each participant reported what prior to analyses. country they live in (number of countries ¼ 36; Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indone- Gender Equality Measures sia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Participants took part in the study between 2011 and 2018. New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Roma- Gender equality for each country was estimated using the nia, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index (GII) and Gender former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, United Development Index (GDI). The GII measures gender inequal- Kingdom, and the United States). ities in reproductive health (maternal mortality ratio and ado- lescent birth rates), empowerment (proportion of parliamentary Mate Preference Tasks seats occupied by females and proportion of adult females over Participants completed the trait-rating mate preference task 25 years with some secondary education), and economic status and/or the trait-ranking mate preference task originally used (labor market and force participation rate of female and male by Buss et al. (1990) and reanalyzed in Eagly and Wood populations over 15 years). The GDI measures gender differ- (1999). Five hundred thirteen participants completed only the ences in development of health, knowledge, and living stan- trait-ranking mate preference task, 93 participants completed dards using the same component indicators as the Human only the trait-rating mate preference task, with the remainder Development Index. These measures were chosen because of (N ¼ 2,654) completing both the trait-rating mate preference their similarity to the Gender Empowerment Measure and and the trait-ranking mate preference task. For participants who gender-related development index used in Eagly and Wood completed both tasks, task order was fully randomized. (1999) and because Eagly and Wood’s social roles theory Zhang et al. 3 Figure 1. Violin plots showing men’s and women’s preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic skills in potential mates as assessed by responses on the trait-rating (top row) and trait-ranking (bottom row) tasks. Rankings have been reverse scored so that higher scores on both tasks indicate stronger preferences. The thick horizontal bar indicates the median and x indicates the mean. emphasizes the importance of the combined effects of gender indicate greater equality. For each participant, the GII and GDI inequality in economic, political, and decision-making roles. scores used were matched to the year in which they partici- GII and GDI data were retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/ pated. Because GII and GDI scores were not available for 2018, data. Lower scores on the GII and higher scores on the GDI we used 2017 values for participants tested in 2018. 4 Evolutionary Psychology Table 1. Results of Tests for Interactions Between the Effects of Gender Equality and Participant Sex in Analyses Controlling for Galton’s Problem. Trait Gender Equality Measure Task Type Estimate tp Physical attractiveness GII Rating 0.13 1.67 .10 Physical attractiveness GII Ranking 0.48 1.90 .06 Physical attractiveness GDI Rating 0.09 0.82 .41 Physical attractiveness GDI Ranking 0.25 0.60 .55 Good earning capacity GII Rating 0.11 1.33 .19 Good earning capacity GII Ranking 0.64 2.09 .06 Good earning capacity GDI Rating 0.04 0.31 .76 Good earning capacity GDI Ranking 0.24 0.56 .58 Domestic skills GII Rating 0.14 1.73 .09 Domestic skills GII Ranking 0.08 0.35 .73 Domestic skills GDI Rating 0.05 0.36 .73 Domestic skills GDI Ranking 0.27 0.68 .50 Note.GII ¼ Gender Inequality Index; GDI ¼ Gender Development Index. stronger preferences for good earning capacity than men did Analysis for both ratings (estimate¼0.55, t¼11.16, p < .001) and Analyses were carried out using R Version 3.4.0. Preferences rankings (estimate ¼1.63, t ¼5.96, p ¼ .024). Men for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domes- showed stronger preferences for physical attractiveness than tic skills were analyzed in separate mixed-effect models, as women did for both ratings (estimate ¼ 0.42, t ¼ 9.25, p ¼ were preferences assessed using the trait-rating and trait- .003) and rankings (estimate ¼ 1.38, t ¼ 7.90, p ¼ .001). ranking tests. Analyses used linear mixed models with ran- There were no significant effects of participant sex on the dom effects of country and region, participant age and desirability of domestic skills in a potential mate for either participant sex as predictors, and random slopes specified ratings (estimate ¼ 0.02, t ¼ 0.52, p ¼ .63) or rankings (esti- maximally (see Barr, Levy, Scheepers, & Tily, 2013). Par- mate ¼ 0.22, t ¼ 1.40, p ¼ .26). Full results for each of these ticipant age was standardized at the participant level and models are given at https://osf.io/4sr5f/ both GII and GDI were standardized at the country level We repeated each of the models described above, this time prior to analyses. Participant sex was effect coded (female including either GII or GDI as additional predictors, along participants ¼.5, male participants ¼ .5). Following pre- with their two-way interactions with participant sex and par- vious research on differences in behavior among countries ticipant age. Of the 12 models testing for possible effects of (e.g., Lee et al., 2018), only responses from countries for gender inequality, none showed a significant (i.e., p <.05) which we had more than nine participants were analyzed. interaction between gender equality and participant sex (all This left us with a sample of 2,986 participants from 36 absolute estimates <0.65, all absolute ts<2.10,all ps >.051). countries for the ranking task and 2,524 participants from Full results for each of these models are given at https://osf.io/ 30 countries for the rating data. 4sr5f/. Results of tests for the critical interactions between the Following other recent work on differences in behavior effects of gender equality and participant sex are summarized among countries (Bulley & Pepper, 2017; Lee et al., 2018), in Table 1. Graphs showing each of these interactions are we controlled for autocorrelation across geographically close shown in Figure 2. regions (i.e., Galton’s problem) in follow-up analyses by Repeating these 12 tests for possible effects of gender equal- including the United Nation’s geographic region classification ity on mate preferences, this time with world region removed in our models (in addition to country). All data (including trait from our analyses (i.e., not controlling for Galton’s problem), ratings and rankings not analyzed here), analysis code, and the only altered results in one case (see https://osf.io/4sr5f/). This full specifications for each model are publicly available at exception was the analysis of good earning capacity assessed https://osf.io/4sr5f/ using the trait-ranking method, for which there was a signifi- cant interaction between participant sex and GII (estimate ¼ 0.65, t ¼2.30, p ¼ .027). Results We first tested for overall sex differences in preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domestic Discussion skills. Figure 1 summarizes men’s and women’s preferences for good earning capacity, physical attractiveness, and domes- Our analyses of sex differences in the desirability of physical tic skills in potential mates as assessed by responses on the attractiveness and good earning capacity in potential mates trait-rating and trait-ranking tasks. Descriptive statistics for replicate the sex differences reported in previous research (see each country are given at https://osf.io/4sr5f/. Women showed Buss & Schmitt, 2018, for a recent review). Specifically, we Zhang et al. 5 found that women (on average) reported stronger preferences for good earning capacity than men did, while men (on aver- age) reported stronger preferences for physical attractiveness than women did. These sex differences were strong, consistent across two methods for assessing mate preferences (responses on the trait-ranking and trait-rating tasks), and were present when controlling for variability in responses across countries and geographic regions. Collectively, these features of our analyses provide further evidence that robust sex differences in preferences for good earning capacity and physical attrac- tiveness of potential mates are relatively stable across geo- graphic regions. We found no evidence for sex differences in preferences for potential mates with domestic skills in our sample (see also Buss et al., 1990). Although we found the expected sex differences in prefer- ences for both physical attractiveness and good earning capacity, evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality was less convincing. We saw no evidence that the sex difference in preference for physical attractiveness was greater in countries with greater gender equality. One analysis suggested that the sex differ- ence in preference for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, but this was only observed for one combination of preference task and gender equality measure (responses on the trait-ranking method ana- lyzed in relation to GII). This effect was also not significant when we controlled for Galton’s problem and would not be significant if a was corrected for multiple comparisons. Thus, we cannot discount the possibility that this relationship is a false positive. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences. That we do not replicate previous results for gender inequal- ity and mate preference sex differences is unlikely to be due to our study being underpowered relative to previous studies. We tested 36 countries, which is a similar sample size to the 37 countries tested in two of the previous studies (Eagly & Wood, 1999; Kasser & Sharma, 1999) and a considerably larger sam- ple size than the 10 countries tested by Zentner and Mitura (2012). The null results in the current study also cannot be explained by the measures of gender inequality we employed. These are similar to those used in previous work on the topic that reported significant effects of gender inequality and, cru- cially, explicitly measure the combined effects of gender equality in economic, political, and decision-making roles that Eagly and Wood emphasized as being of critical impor- tance for their observed effects. Indeed, while Eagly and Wood stated that using gender equality measures from differ- ent years than the preference data were collected was a lim- Figure 2. Interactions between participant sex and gender equality itation of their study, we matched our gender equality measures for each combination of trait and rating task. Dots show measures to the year in which preference data were collected means and lines show SEM. Lower scores on the Gender Inequality (only substituting 2017 gender equality data for 2018 data Index and higher scores on the Gender Development Index indicate greater equality. because the 2018 data were not available). 6 Evolutionary Psychology Bulley, A., & Pepper, G. V. (2017). Cross-country relationships An important limitation of the current study (and of work on between life expectancy, intertemporal choice and age at first birth. this topic, generally) is that we assessed participants’ prefer- Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 652–658. ences for traits in potential mates rather than the traits their Buss, D. M., Abbott, M., Angleitner, A., Asherian, A., Biaggio, A., actual partners possessed. Although some research suggests Blanco-Villasenor, A., ... Kuo-Shu, Y. (1990). International pre- some aspects of mate preferences predict actual partner choices ferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of relatively well (see DeBruine et al., 2006, for a review), other Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 5–47. work suggests that for highly desirable traits, the ability to Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (2019). Mate preferences and their translate preferences into actual partner choices depends on behavioral manifestations. Annual Review of Psychology, 70, one’s own market value (Wincenciak et al., 2015). Whether 77–110. gender equality predicts sex differences in partner choices is Chiappori, P. A., Oreffice, S., & Quintana-Domeque, C. (2012). Fatter an open (and important) question. attraction: Anthropometric and socioeconomic matching on the In summary, we replicated previous reports that women (on marriage market. Journal of Political Economy, 120, 659–695. average) show stronger preferences for good earning capacity DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Boothroyd, L. G., Perrett, in potential mates than men do, while men (on average) show D. I., Penton-Voak, I. S., ... Tiddeman, B. P. (2006). Correlated stronger preferences for physical attractiveness in potential mates than women do. However, we did not replicate Eagly preferences for facial masculinity and ideal or actual partner’s and Wood’s (1999) finding that sex differences in preferences masculinity. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 273, for physical attractiveness and domestic skills are smaller in 1355–1360. countries with greater gender equality. We saw some evidence Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in that the sex difference in preference for good earning capacity human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. Amer- was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, but this ican Psychologist, 54, 408. effect was inconsistent across measures of mate preferences Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G., & Buss, D. M. (2006). Evolution- and gender equality, was not significant when controlling for ary foundations of cultural variation: Evoked culture and mate Galton’s problem, and would not be significant when a was preferences. Psychological Inquiry, 17, 75–95. corrected for multiple comparisons. Together, these results Kasser, T., & Sharma, Y. S. (1999). Reproductive freedom, educa- present little compelling evidence for the social role theory tional equality, and females’ preference for resource-acquisition of sex differences in mate preferences. characteristics in mates. Psychological Science, 10, 374–377. Lee, A. J., DeBruine, L. M., & Jones, B. C. (2018). Individual-specific Acknowledgment mortality is associated with how individuals evaluate future dis- The authors would like to thank David Schmitt for feedback on an counting decisions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285, earlier draft. Lippa, R. A. (2007). The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national Declaration of Conflicting Interests study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An exam- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to ination of biological and cultural influences. Archives of Sexual the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Behavior, 36, 193–208. Oreffice, S., & Quintana-Domeque, C. (2010). Anthropometry and Funding socioeconomics among couples: Evidence in the United States. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for Economics & Human Biology, 8, 373–384. the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This Pollet, T. V., Tybur, J. M., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Rickard, I. J. (2014). research was funded by an ERC grant to LMD (KINSHIP). Anthony What can cross-cultural correlations teach us about human nature? J. Lee has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Human Nature, 25, 410–429. research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska- Wincenciak, J., Fincher, C. L., Fisher, C. I., Hahn, A. C., Jones, B. C., Curie grant agreement No 705478. & DeBruine, L. M. (2015). Mate choice, mate preference, and ORCID iD biological markets: The relationship between partner choice and Benedict C. Jones https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7777-0220 health preference is modulated by women’s own attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36, 274–278. References Zentner, M., & Mitura, K. (2012). Stepping out of the caveman’s Barr, D. J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., & Tily, H. J. (2013). Random shadow: Nations’ gender gap predicts degree of sex differentia- effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it max- tioninmatepreferences. Psychological Science, 23, imal. Journal of Memory and Language, 68, 255–278. 1176–1185.

Journal

Evolutionary PsychologySAGE

Published: May 30, 2019

Keywords: sex differences; mate preferences; gender inequality; attractiveness; status

References