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Background: I was at a talk today where the presenter discussed a study that involved a administering a couple of questions asking participants which of two people they would prefer as a relationship partner. To simplify things a little bit, in one example participants were asked whether they would prefer a rich ugly partner or a poor attractive partner.

This got me interested in whether anyone had extended this idea to a comprehensive choice modelling study. I.e., get a large number of participants to compare pairs of possible partners with different characteristics and estimate the utility of different characteristics.

Question:

  • What if any journal articles have examined relationship partner preference using a choice modelling methodology?
  • What were the main findings?
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Speed dating seems to provide an ideal setting for the type of study you seek. There are several relevant papers (see References below and Google search human mate preferences speed dating).

There is no consensus among researchers, but here's a sampling of some of the supposed findings:

  • Buston & Emlen claim that people choose mates from their league, i.e., those they think have comparable traits, which lie in four categories: "wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, and sexual fidelity".
  • Todd et al. claim support for parental investment theory because "men chose women based on their physical attractiveness, whereas women ... chose men whose overall desirability as a mate matched the women's self-perceived physical attractiveness"

References

  • Buston, P. M. & Emlen, S. T. (2003) Cognitive processes underlying human mate choice: the relationship between self-perception and mate preference in Western society. PNAS 100: 8805-8810. [pdf]
  • Todd, P. M., Penke, L., Fasolo, B., & Lenton, A. P. (2007) Different cognitive processes underlie human mate choices and mate preferences. PNAS 104: 15011-15016. [pdf]
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