The dominance dilemma: Do women really prefer dominant mates?

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Previous research has led to a widely accepted conclusion that heterosexual women prefer mates who are high in dominance. Three experiments designed to distinguish dominance from prestige and examine moderating contextual factors challenge this conclusion. College women at 2 U.S. universities evaluated hypothetical, potential mates described in written vignettes. Participants in Study 1 preferred a high-prestige to a high-dominance target. With dominance and prestige manipulated independently in Study 2, participants preferred high to low prestige but also preferred low to high dominance. Participants in Study 3 preferred high to low dominance, but only (a) when displayed in the context of an athletic competition and (b) in ratings of attractiveness and desirability as a short-term (vs. long-term) mate.

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