Teresa Mathew
Updated Aug 11, 2015 @ 1:44 pm
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It’s tempting to believe that love conquers all, but it may not be able to override evolution. According to a cross-cultural study (“How sexually dimorphic are human mate preferences?”) on mate preferences by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin, men and women have significantly different ideas of the “perfect’ mate — ideas that are strongly linked to evolutionary needs.

David Buss, a psychology professor and co-author of the study, noted, “many want to believe that women and men are identical in their underlying psychology, but the genders differ strikingly in their evolved mate preferences in some domains.” The study, which involved 4,764 men and 5,389 women, spanned 33 countries and 37 cultures. And in addition to proving that men and women look for different things in a partner, the study also found that those preferences do not vary across cultures. Buss stressed that when it comes to mate preferences, “the same holds true in highly sexually egalitarian cultures such as Sweden and Norway as in less egalitarian cultures such as Iran.”

Researchers discovered that they could actually predict someone’s sex with 92.2% accuracy if they knew what he or she preferred in a partner — a fact which helped them realize how strongly patterns of mate preferences are tied to gender.

So what exactly are these preferences? Researchers considered 19 mate preferences and found that five differed significantly based on gender: good financial prospects, physical attractiveness, sexual experience, ambition, and age. Other preferences, such as having a pleasing disposition or shared religious and political views, did not differ by sex. Overall, the study found that men tend to favor mates who are younger and physically attractive, while women look for older mates with a higher standing, ambition, and good financial prospects.

The researchers say that this points to an evolutionary reasoning behind why both genders would value different qualities in a partner. “Few decisions impact reproduction more than mate choice,” said Daniel Conroy-Beam, a graduate researcher and lead author of the study. He offered some explanation as to why each gender looks for the traits they do. “Because women bear the cost of pregnancy and lactation, they often faced the adaptive problem of acquiring resources to produce and support offspring, while men faced adaptive problems of identifying fertile partners and sought cues to fertility and future reproductive value.”

Not that this necessarily means that every man or woman you meet is going to looking for these preferences alone — and the study does not say if preferences vary for anyone who is LGBTQ+. So let’s take this whole thing with a heaping grain of salt. Still, always interesting to read about the science behind attraction.

[Image via FOX]