Gentlemen Prefer Brains




For generations, it has been an accepted — if annoying — part of the human experience that men tend to choose mates based more on physical attractiveness than intelligence. But, a new study finds that the gender roles have shifted and, now, women are guilty of looking at skin-deep characteristics when choosing a partner.

Over the last few decades in Western cultures, gender disparity, in terms of educational attainment, career advancement, and wealth accumulation, has narrowed. Women are more self-sufficient than ever and are no longer worried about choosing a husband with a high earning potential. (Women can earn their own money, thank you very much!) Women, it seems, have also earned the right to choose a partner based on looks. Men, on the other hand, who have traditionally looked for an attractive housewife who can cook and clean and raise children, are more interested in a woman with some intelligence and strong character.

The new study, published in Psychological Science, surveyed more than 12,000 people in 30 countries to assess the factors affecting mate selection. Even as recently as 20 years ago, women preferred mates who were wealthy and would provide well for a family. According to the authors, women now place a higher priority on a man’s looks than on his wallet. Men, though, who used to favor physical attractiveness and cooking skills, place brains before beauty on the must-have list. In all countries, the more equal the genders were in society, the more these findings held true.

Multiple factors affect mate selection, and there are many evolutionary consequences of the cues humans use to choose a partner. But, gender equality in society has led to changes in mate-selection preferences. After generations of fighting for equality, women might have evolved more in the other direction, but maybe this is just Mother Nature’s way of teaching men what it’s like to be judged on physical attractiveness alone. Men who want to find a wife should heed the advice of the study’s authors and step off the corporate ladder and into the gym.

References

Candolin U (2003). The use of multiple cues in mate choice. Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 78 (4), 575-95 PMID: 14700392

Feingold A (1992). Gender differences in mate selection preferences: a test of the parental investment model. Psychological bulletin, 112 (1), 125-39 PMID: 1388281

Jennions MD, & Petrie M (1997). Variation in mate choice and mating preferences: a review of causes and consequences. Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 72 (2), 283-327 PMID: 9155244

Miller GF (1997). Mate choice: from sexual cues to cognitive adaptations. Ciba Foundation symposium, 208 PMID: 9386908

Vakirtzis A, & Roberts SC (2012). Human nonindependent mate choice: Is model female attractiveness everything? Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 10 (2), 225-37 PMID: 22947636

Zentner M, & Mitura K (2012). Stepping Out of the Caveman’s Shadow: Nations’ Gender Gap Predicts Degree of Sex Differentiation in Mate Preferences. Psychological science PMID: 22933455

Image via Dima Sobko / Shutterstock.

  • This is a very welcoming shift for our species! In other species, males have been almost always judged by physical features, & males spend considerable energy displaying these assets.

    It is also interesting that males who divorce often put a high premium on younger women & physical charecteristics compared & contrasted to their former spouses.

    And finally, the brain itself is not an attractive, or appealing organ!

    Rich

  • This is a welcome shift for both sexes. Now women are being seen as having an input in the area of intelligence and men are not being judged on the size of their wallet.

  • chris

    Shifting from a dad society to a cad society is not a good thing. Read the garbage generation.

  • Julie Han

    I think those are all effected from our society, and now a day, the gender role has changed. 30 years ago, men used to asked for date to women and drive cars, and women used to just take care of their children and do some house-works; Those were what people expected about men and women. However, these days these days, women often work a lot(maybe the same hours as men), and sometimes men cook or do house-work at home. Also, as you said, nowadays, men want women to work, so they also prefer to have a women with intelligence and strong character. The gender roles are always based on our society and culture,

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.
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