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Love or money?

Posted on 11 September 2012

York study shows men and women’s criteria for choosing a partner are less different in societies with greater equality.

In many cultures men and women use very different criteria in choosing their partners. Previously it has been argued that men look for fertile partners (typically young women) and women look for resourceful (i.e., rich) men because evolution has favoured these strategies in our ancestors.

The new study from Dr Marcel Zentner and Klaudia Mitura shows that these traditional biases vary across cultures and are reduced in more societies with greater gender equality. In the largest of two investigations they report looked at responses from almost 9000 people in 31 countries around the world with varying degrees of parity between the sexes. The volunteers were asked to indicate which factors influenced their choice of a partner.  The traditional pattern of differences in selection strategy was greatest in gender-unequal nations, and least in the most gender-equal nations. The results, described in a paper appearing in leading journal Psychological Science, undermine the idea that male-female differences in mate selection are hard-wired by evolution.