Men who are looking for short-term companionship are more interested in a woman’s body than those looking for a long-term relationship, who focused on a woman’s face, according to new research from psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin. A woman’s body generally provides cues about her state of fertility while her face gives insight into her long-term reproductive value, according to previous research. So the new findings suggest men seeking a short-term relationship have psychological adaptations to look for partners who are fertile and can produce offspring. “Men’s priorities shift depending on what they want in a mate, with facial features taking on more importance when a long-term relationship is the goal,” says psychology graduate student Jaime Confer, who co-authored the research with graduate student Carin Perilloux and Professor David Buss. “Mating is central to the engine of natural selection. This research helps clarify people’s preference.” Women showed no significant difference in their interest in faces or bodies when looking for short-term or long-term mates, according to the study published this month in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. Previous research has examined the qualities that make faces and bodies attractive, such as symmetry and waist-to-hip ratio. But this is the first study to experimentally analyze the relative importance of faces and bodies as whole components.
As part of the study, 375 college students were shown an image of another person, whose face and body was hidden, who was described as either a potential short-term or long-term mate. The participants had the option of looking at either head or body, but not both. Twenty-five percent of men who were told to consider the mate as a long-term partner looked at their potential partner’s body. In contrast, 51 percent of those who were told to consider her as a short-term partner chose to look her body. Confer and her colleagues are considering follow-up research in which participants will be asked if they want to see the faces or bodies of potential rivals who may be stealing their mates. That could help reveal if men and women feel more threatened by a pretty face or a good body. – What is Evolutionary Psychology? Evolutionary psychology is a hybrid discipline that draws insights from modern evolutionary theory, biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science, and paleoarchaeology. The discipline rests on a foundation of core premises: (1) Manifest behavior depends on underlying psychological mechanisms, information processing devices housed in the brain, in conjunction with the external and internal inputs that trigger their activation; (2) Evolution by selection is the only known causal process capable of creating such complex
organic mechanisms; (3) Evolved psychological mechanisms are functionally specialized to solve adaptive problems that recurred for humans over deep evolutionary time; (4) Selection designed the information processing of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be adaptively influenced by specific classes of information from the environment; (5) Human psychology consists of a large number of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms, each sensitive to particular forms of contextual input, that get combined, coordinated, and integrated with each other to produce manifest behavior. The Evolutionary Psychology program at the University of Texas offers a doctorate of psychology degree. It provides advanced training in evolutionary psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, comparative psychology, research methods, and statistics. In addition to their research with faculty members in evolutionary psychology, graduate students are encouraged to collaborate with other faculty members in the department of psychology, the department of biology, and others. David Buss is a full professor of psychology at the University of Texas. He is currently the head of the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology Area and supervises a lab of evolutionary psychology Ph.D. students. For more information, contact: Gary Susswein, College of Liberal Arts, Jaime Confer News from: The University of Texas at Austin utexas.edu
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