Evolution, computer simulation, and human mate selection
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Prior research has amassed an impressive catalog of human mate preferences. These include universal preferences for features such as kindness, intelligence, and dependability; sex-differentiated attributes such as youth; and physical features such as bodily symmetry and degree of lumbar curvature. However, psychologists lack understanding of what these many preferences do. This dissertation presents three sets of studies that form the foundation of a broader research program exploring the effects of mate preferences on mating outcomes and implications of these effects for the study of preferences. Chapter 2 presents three studies that use agent-based modeling to determine whether people’s stated mate preferences drive their mate choices at all. These studies suggest that mate preferences do guide mate selection, but their effects are not intuitively obvious because of the complex dynamics inherent to realistic mating markets. Three studies in Chapter 3 compare several algorithms for how our mate selection psychology could translate our many individual preferences into mating decisions. Data from agent-based models and real human couples suggest that human mate preferences are integrated into feelings of attraction according to a Euclidean algorithm that represents preferences and potential mates as points within a multidimensional preference space. This multidimensionality has many potential implications for the study of mate preferences; Chapter 4 explores one such implication: how to accurately quantify sex differences in mate preferences. Altogether this dissertation presents a novel perspective on the role of human mate preferences in mating outcomes and new tools for studying mate preferences and human mate choice.