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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jul 22;100(15):8805-10. Epub 2003 Jul 3.

Cognitive processes underlying human mate choice: The relationship between self-perception and mate preference in Western society.

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Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


This study tested two hypotheses concerning the cognitive processes underlying human mate choice in Western society: (i) mate preference is conditional in that the selectivity of individuals' mate preference is based on their perception of themselves as long-term partners, and (ii) the decision rule governing such conditional mate preference is based on translating perception of oneself on a given attribute into a comparable selectivity of preference for the same attribute in a mate. Both hypotheses were supported. A two-part questionnaire was completed by 978 heterosexual residents of Ithaca, New York, aged 18-24; they first rated the importance they placed on 10 attributes in a long-term partner and then rated their perception of themselves on those same attributes. Both women and men who rated themselves highly were significantly more selective in their mate preference. When the 10 attributes were grouped into four evolutionarily relevant categories (indicative of wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, and sexual fidelity), the greatest amount of variation in the selectivity of mate preference in each category was explained by self-perception in the same category of attributes. We conclude that, in Western society, humans use neither an "opposites-attract" nor a "reproductive-potentials-attract" decision rule in their choice of long-term partners but rather a "likes-attract" rule based on a preference for partners who are similar to themselves across a number of characteristics.

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