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Study Shows Men Prefer Looks, Women Prefer ‘Social Status’

By  Hank Berrien
Photo by Burak Karademir/GettyImages

A new study has confirmed what a number of people already believe: when looking for a partner, men place much more emphasis on the physical beauty of their prospective mate while women look for someone who has high social status (which could very well be translated as money.)

As The Daily Mail noted:

Teams from Glasgow University and East China Normal University questioned 99 UK women, 113 UK men, 120 Chinese women and 142 Chinese men between the ages of 16 and 30 to rank five aspects of a prospective partner: creativity, kindness, liveliness, physical attractiveness, and social status … In long-term relationships, UK men rated looks as 27 per cent more important than women did. Findings among Chinese men were similar. Meanwhile, UK women placed a 27 per cent higher value on social status than men did.

Here’s what the authors of the study stated:

Two key factors are thought to drive sex differences in human mate preferences. First, because fertility declines faster with age and requires a larger physiological cost for women than men, men are hypothesized to show stronger preferences for physical cues of reproductive capacity (e.g. youth, health and good nutritional status) in women than women do when assessing the attractiveness of potential mates [1]. Second, women bear greater costs of obligatory parental investment (i.e. pregnancy and lactation) than men do, meaning they have both a greater need for resources and reduced ability to obtain resources. Consequently, women are hypothesized to show stronger preferences for cues of the capability to invest resources in offspring when assessing men’s attractiveness as long-term partners

The authors continued:

Men allocated significantly more mate dollars to physical attractiveness than women did in both the U.S. and Singaporean samples … By contrast, women allocated significantly more mate dollars to social status than men did in both the US and Singaporean samples.

Confirmatory analyses supported our prediction that men in both samples would show stronger preferences for physical attractiveness than women did and our prediction that women in both samples would show stronger preferences for social status than men did.

Writing in Psychology Today in July, David Ludden, a professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College, theorized:

In the end, the jury is still out on the question of why there are sex differences in mating preferences. Women’s tendency to choose mates for their resources rather than their looks may have evolved in our hunter-gatherer past. The data from modern women’s responses tends to support the notion of evolved preferences, but the theory clashes with what we know about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Women’s mating preferences may also be a response to the social roles assigned to them in modern society. Perhaps women would go for looks over resources if they didn’t have to worry about the economic consequences of their mating choices.

James Hamblin noted in The Atlantic in 2014:

In one illustrious study of love (“human sexual selection”) in 1986, psychologists David Buss and Michael Barnes asked people to rank 76 characteristics: What do you value most in a potential mate? The winner wasn’t beauty, and it wasn’t wealth. Number one was “kind and understanding,” followed by “exciting personality” and then “intelligent.” Men did say they valued appearances more highly than women did, and women said they valued “good earning capacity” more highly than men did—but neither ranked measures of physical attractiveness or socioeconomic status among their top considerations.

Hamblin commented, “People, though, are liars.”


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