Researchers in previous studies have claimed that although men and women say they want something different in romantic partners, the two sexes really want the same thing.
The new study, including researchers from Arizona State University, suggests the claim needs revisiting. The study found that men and women really mean what they say - guys care a lot more about attractiveness and women care a lot more about social status.
The findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are the first to demonstrate experimentally that the sexes differ in the way they choose mates in real-life contexts.
The study's findings contradict recently popularized speed-dating studies that have found that, while men and women show these differences when considering hypothetical ideal partners, their preferences do not match up with how they actually evaluate and choose speed-dating partners. Both sexes seem to place equally high value on physical attractiveness in their speed-dates.
Researchers in the new study conducted various experiments using online chatting and speed-dating methods. Unlike past studies, these experiments were explicitly set up to include men and women with low social status and low physical attractiveness.
After chatting with individuals with both low and moderate levels of these traits, men, more than women, rejected and reported less attraction toward potential mates with low physical attractiveness. Women, more than men, indicated similar aversion toward those with low social status.
According to Norman Li, associate professor of psychology at Singapore Management University and the study's lead author, the research is also novel because the scientists are clarifying how exactly men and women differ.
"That is, they prioritize different qualities when screening each other in online chats and speed-dates – women want men who are at least average in social status while men want women who are at least moderately physically attractive," Li said.
According to Li, men and women differ mostly on the low-end qualities that they want to avoid, not the high-end traits that they ideally desire.
However, unattractiveness in women and low social status in men may not be well-represented in speed-dating events and attraction studies run on university students and professionals; hence, that is a reason why other speed-dating studies have not found sex differences and why it might appear that people do not know what they want in their potential mates.


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