Sex Differences in Perceived Controllability of Mate Value: An Evolutionary Perspective

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Abstract

Men and women value different characteristics in potential partners. It was hypothesized that women feel they have less control over traits relevant to their desirability than men feel they have over traits related to male desirability. In Study 1, undergraduates (N = 150) completed questionnaires measuring (a) the importance they attributed to 64 characteristics when choosing a mate and (b) their perceived control over these traits. Men selected partners on the basis of traits that are relatively uncontrollable (e.g., youth, attractiveness), whereas women selected partners on the basis of traits that are more controllable (e.g., status, industriousness; d = 1.75). In Study 2, these findings were replicated in an older, representative community sample (N = 301; d = 1.03). Greater uncontrollability of traits relevant to female mate value may place women at elevated risk for negative affect, depression, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.

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