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Proc Biol Sci. Jun 7, 2004; 271(1544): 1129–1134.
PMCID: PMC1691703

Sexual imprinting in human mate choice.


Animal and human studies have shown that individuals choose mates partly on the basis of similarity, a tendency referred to as homogamy. Several authors have suggested that a specific innate recognition mechanism, phenotypic matching, allows the organism to detect similar others by their resemblance to itself. However, several objections have been raised to this theory on both empirical and theoretical grounds. Here, we report that homogamy in humans is attained partly by sexual imprinting on the opposite-sex parent during childhood. We hypothesized that children fashion a mental model of their opposite-sex parent's phenotype that is used as a template for acquiring mates. To disentangle the effects of phenotypic matching and sexual imprinting, adopted daughters and their rearing families were examined. Judges found significant resemblance on facial traits between daughter's husband and her adoptive father. Furthermore, this effect may be modified by the quality of the father-daughter relationship during childhood. Daughters who received more emotional support from their adoptive father were more likely to choose mates similar to the father than those whose father provided a less positive emotional atmosphere.

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Selected References

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Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society


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