Hello Mr Nice Guy

In the Western World, we generally pick one partner and aim to stay with this person for the rest of our lives. However, in an ever-changing world of lockdowns and relationship confusion it is often hard to navigate the dating world. Evolutionary psychologists research what characteristics females show preference for in a desired partner. Mate preference is a fascinating topic, however, take it with a tonne of salt- we aren’t identical sex driven apes who just want to reproduce. However, why not immerse yourself in a non-judgmental fun read and get down to the nitty gritty of what you can do to attract that perfect partner or even why you chose your significant other.  

In sexual selection females are predominantly the sex that invests more.  Women carry the baby, breastfeed and are commonly the primary caregiver (shout out to all the Mums). Further, combine this with their limited sex gametes compared to males they are naturally more selective when it comes to choosing a mate. Basically, eggs are precious and women don’t want to make a baby with any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’.  The highest number of recorded offspring by a female was a Russian peasant in the 19th century, Mrs Vassilyev, who gave birth to 69 children…ouch. A man can produce far more children, the highest number of recorded offspring was by Moulay Ismael, who was a sultan of Morocco in 1645. He had 500 concubines and over 800 sons- busy, busy. However, this is a rarity and females have far less reproductive cells. 

Therefore, females need to make a successful judgement on the correct mate in order to not waste any time. Males often present some ‘fitness indicators’ to swoon a female and to give suggestions to their gene quality, resources and the potential benefits they would pass on to the children. Women have preferences for certain characteristics and some of these are masculinity, altruism and co-operativeness.

To gym or not to gym? 

The most obvious indicator of good genetic quality is masculinity. Research has found females tend to favour men with higher levels of masculinity. It is associated with higher mating success, linked with protection, possesses good quality genes and it is also an appealing trait to pass down to children. At the follicular time of the month (when conception is more likely to happen) females favour more masculine faces. Women also found masculine bodies, low voice pitch and masculine smell more attractive. Masculine smell? Anyone else imagining Popeye stinking of BO and spinach. 

Masculinity is associated with high levels of testosterone and interestingly testosterone can elicit suppressive effects on your immune system, such as creating respiratory problems and also individuals responding to influenza vaccinations poorly. So, if the man has high levels of testosterone, looks masculine and is still thriving this is super attractive to a female and shows that he has great genes . This would suggest that masculinity is a hot characteristic. But WAIT, don’t sign up to the gym just yet. 

Evidence shows that females are particularly attracted to masculine men around the follicular phase and for only a short-term relationship. The reason masculine males may be viewed as a fling might be that masculinity has been related to infidelity, aggression and also relationship instability. For long term mates, women often look to less masculine and softer males who provide other important resources, such as having a committed parental investment attitude. In all, this would suggest females have a preference for masculinity but only during peak fertility and as short-term mates. Basically, in the long run muscles aren’t the be all and end all when you’re looking for the one. 

Hello Mr Nice Guy

Research has found the trait altruism (being selfless and thinking of others well-being before their own) as a trait that females strongly prefer- who wouldn’t?  Much like masculinity, altruism is regarded as a costly trait; acquiring it and still thriving highlights one’s genetic quality. Makes sense, a nice person and healthy- damn you’re a catch! Research using fake dating advertisements, which varied in altruism, found females to have a strong preference for mates with high altruistic tendencies. Obviously, it is important to acknowledge the fictitious element that may not truly represent altruism. Nevertheless, extensive research has repeated this finding that females prefer altruistic mates. An altruistic male will exhibit a committed and rewarding parenting style. So…change up the tinder profile, give a suggestion to your nice guy traits.

Takeaway message

In conclusion, the evidence has demonstrated that females show preference for certain characteristics at different times of the month. Females place masculinity as a desirable gene for their offspring, however don’t see the masculine mate as husband material. The personality trait altruism is seriously favoured, especially when looking for a long-term mate. In all, the research would suggest if you want a long-term partner ditch the weights and gain the altruistic trait. Being the nice guy really does get you far.

References

Archer, J. (1991). The influence of testosterone on human aggression. British Journal of Psychology, 82(1), 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1991.tb02379.x 

Barclay, P. (2010). Altruism as a courtship display: Some effects of third-party generosity on audience perceptions. British Journal of Psychology, 101(1), 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1348/000712609×435733 

Barclay, P., & Reeve, H. K. (2012). The varying relationship between helping and individual quality. Behavioral Ecology, 23(4), 693–698. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ars039 

Farrelly, D. (2013). Altruism as an Indicator of Good Parenting Quality in Long-Term Relationships: Further Investigations Using the Mate Preferences Towards Altruistic Traits Scale. The Journal of Social Psychology, 153(4), 395–398. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2013.768595 

Feinberg, D. R., Jones, B. C., Law Smith, M. J., Moore, F. R., DeBruine, L. M., Cornwell, R. E., … Perrett, D. I. (2006). Menstrual cycle, trait estrogen level, and masculinity preferences in the human voice. Hormones and Behavior, 49(2), 215–222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.07.004 

Furman, D., Hejblum, B. P., Simon, N., Jojic, V., Dekker, C. L., Thiebaut, R., … Davis, M. M. (2013). Systems analysis of sex differences reveals an immunosuppressive role for testosterone in the response to influenza vaccination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(2), 869–874. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1321060111 

Haselton, M. G., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Conditional expression of women’s desires and men’s mate guarding across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 49(4), 509–518. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.10.006 

Havlicek, J., Roberts, S. C., & Flegr, J. (2005). Women’s preference for dominant male odour: effects of menstrual cycle and relationship status. Biology Letters, 1(3), 256–259. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2005.0332 

JENNIONS, M.I.C.H.A.E.L.S., & PETRIE, M. A. R. I. O. N. (2000). Why do females mate multiply? A review of the genetic benefits. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 75(1), 21–64. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0006323199005423 

Johnston, V. S., Hagel, R., Franklin, M., Fink, B., & Grammer, K. (2001). Male facial attractiveness: evidence for hormone-mediated adaptive design. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22(4), 251–267. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1090-5138(01)00066-6 

Kordsmeyer, T. L., Hunt, J., Puts, D. A., Ostner, J., & Penke, L. (2018). The relative importance of intra- and intersexual selection on human male sexually dimorphic traits. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(4), 424–436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.03.008 

Kordsmeyer, T. L., Lohöfener, M., & Penke, L. (2018). Male Facial Attractiveness, Dominance, and Health and the Interaction between Cortisol and Testosterone. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 5(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-018-0098-z 

Little, A. C., & Jones, B. C. (2012). Variation in facial masculinity and symmetry preferences across the menstrual cycle is moderated by relationship context. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(7), 999–1008. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.11.007 

Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2007). Preferences for masculinity in male bodies change across the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 51(5), 633–639. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.006 

Messingham, K. A., Messingham, K. A., Shirazi, M., Duffner, L. A., Duffner, L. A., Emanuele, M. A., … Kovacs, E. J. (2001). Testosterone receptor blockade restores cellular immunity in male mice after burn injury. Journal of Endocrinology, 169(2), 299–308. https://doi.org/10.1677/joe.0.1690299 

Miller, G. F. (2007). SEXUAL SELECTION FOR MORAL VIRTUES. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 82(2), 97–125. https://doi.org/10.1086/517857 

Penton-Voak, I. S., & Perrett, D. I. (2000). Female preference for male faces changes cyclically. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21(1), 39–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1090-5138(99)00033-1 

Peters, M., Simmons, L., & Rhodes, G. (2009). Preferences across the Menstrual Cycle for Masculinity and Symmetry in Photographs of Male Faces and Bodies. PLoS ONE, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004138 

Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Facial sexual dimorphism, developmental stability, and susceptibility to disease in men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(2), 131–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2005.06.001 

Trivers, R. 1972. Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man 1871–1971 ( B. Campbell, ed.), pp. 139– 179. Aldine Press, Chicago.

Leave a Reply