Using Revealed Mate Preferences to Evaluate Market Force and Differential Preference Explanations for Mate Selection

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Abstract

In this article the authors illustrate how revealed preferences (i.e., preferences inferred through an individual's differential attraction to multiple targets) can be used to investigate the nature of mate preferences. The authors describe how revealed preferences can be estimated and how the reliability of these estimates can be established. Revealed preference estimates were used to explore the level of consensus in judgments of who is and is not attractive and whether revealed preferences are systematically related to self-reported mate preferences and personality traits. Revealed preference estimates were created for over 4,000 participants by examining their attraction to 98 photographs. Participants of both genders showed substantial consensus in judgments of whom they found attractive and unattractive, although men showed higher consensus than women. Revealed preference estimates also showed relationships with corresponding self-rated preferences and with other dispositional characteristics such as personality traits and age. Although the findings demonstrate the existence of meaningful individual differences in preferences, they also indicate an important role for consensual preferences in mate selection processes.

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