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Psychol Sci. 2012 Oct 1;23(10):1176-85. doi: 10.1177/0956797612441004. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Stepping out of the caveman's shadow: nations' gender gap predicts degree of sex differentiation in mate preferences.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of York, York, United Kingdom. marcel.zentner@york.ac.uk


An influential explanation for gender differences in mating strategies is that the sex-specific reproductive constraints faced by human ancestors shaped these differences. Other theorists have emphasized the role of societal factors, hypothesizing, for example, that gender differences in mate preferences should wane in gender-equal societies. However, findings have been ambiguous. Using recent data and a novel measure of gender equality, we revisited the role of gender parity in gender differentiation for mate preferences. In the first study, 3,177 participants from 10 nations with a gradually decreasing Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) provided online ratings of the desirability of mate attributes with reportedly evolutionary origins. In the second study, GGI scores were related to gender differences in mate preferences previously reported for 8,953 participants from 31 nations (Buss, 1989). Both studies show that gender differences in mate preferences with presumed evolutionary roots decline proportionally to increases in nations' gender parity.

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