All the single ladies

Kevin Lewis

May 11, 2019

Evidence supporting nubility and reproductive value as the key to human female physical attractiveness
William Lassek & Steven Gaulin
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Selection should favor mating preferences that increase the chooser's reproductive success. Many previous studies have shown that the women men find most attractive in well-nourished populations have low body mass indices (BMIs) and small waist sizes combined with relatively large hips, resulting in low waist-hip ratios (WHRs). A frequently proposed explanation for these preferences is that such women may have enhanced health and fertility; but extensive evidence contradicts this health-and-fertility explanation. An alternative view is that men are attracted to signs of nubility and high reproductive value , i.e., by indicators of physical and sexual maturity in young women who have not been pregnant. Here we provide evidence in support of the view that a small waist size together with a low WHR and BMI is a strong and reliable sign of nubility. Using U.S. data from large national health surveys, we show that WHR, waist/thigh, waist/stature, and BMI are all lower in the age group (15-19) in which women reach physical and sexual maturity, after which all of these anthropometric measures increase. We also show that a smaller waist, in conjunction with relatively larger hips or thighs, is strongly associated with nulligravidity and with higher blood levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid that is probably limiting for infant brain development. Thus, a woman with the small waist and relatively large hips that men find attractive is very likely to be nubile and nulliparous, with maximal bodily stores of key reproductive resources.

Do women love their partner's smell? Exploring women's preferences for and identification of male partner and non-partner body odor
Mehmet Mahmut, Richard Stevenson & Ian Stephen
Physiology & Behavior, forthcoming


Despite evidence indicating body odor (BO) preference is an important driver in mate selection, previous studies have only investigated females' preferences for the BO of strangers. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to determine if partnered females prefer their partner's BO compared to that of others males' BO. Forty partnered and 42 single, heterosexual women aged 18–35 years, brought to the laboratory a shirt their partner or male friend/relative (respectively) sweated in while wearing. The results indicated that both partnered and single women (blindly) rated their known donor's BO as smelling significantly more similar, familiar and sexy compared to six unknown male's BO, but rated their known donor's BO as less intense smelling than unknown males' BO. While participants indicated they liked their known donor's BO more than that of unknown males' BO, the difference was not statistically significant. Moreover, participants were unlikely to rank their known donor's BO as their most preferred of seven BOs. Finally, partnered and single participants could reliably recognise their known donor's BO and that of unknown males' which was driven by their ability to indicate a stranger's BO was not that of known donor's. Overall, these preliminary findings suggest that partnered females may prefer their partners' BO but this preference may not be due to mate selection but instead a consequence of repeated exposure to their partner's BO.

Making Sure You See the Real Me: The Role of Self-Esteem in Spontaneous Self-Expansion
Erica Slotter & Lyuboslava Kolarova
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


People alter their self-concepts by incorporating attributes of close others, such as desired romantic partners, into their own identity. The current research examined self-esteem as a moderator of this spontaneous self-expansion. Two studies tested the hypothesis that when presented with a prospective romantic partner, higher self-esteem people (HSE) would self-expand to adopt positive attributes, while lower self-esteem people (LSE) would self-expand to adopt negative attributes. This tendency corresponds with people’s desire to self-verify and be seen by others in line with their own self-views, which are often negative among those lower in self-esteem. Study 1 (n = 218) and Study 2 (n = 234) confirmed our predictions that when motivated to increase romantic closeness to a prospective partner, self-esteem differentially predicts people’s spontaneous self-expansion to adopt positive versus negative attributes.

A dyadic perspective on gratitude sheds light on both its benefits and its costs: Evidence that low gratitude acts as a “weak link”
James McNulty & Alexander Dugas
Journal of Family Psychology, forthcoming


Research suggests gratitude benefits close relationships. However, relationships involve 2 people, and the interpersonal implications of mismatches in gratitude remain unclear. Is it sufficient for 1 partner to be high in gratitude, or does low gratitude in at least 1 partner act as a “weak link” that disrupts both partners’ relational well-being? We asked both members of 120 newlywed couples to report their tendencies to feel and express gratitude for their partner every year for 2 years and their marital satisfaction every 4 months for 3 years. Initial levels of own and partner gratitude interacted to predict initial levels of marital satisfaction and changes in marital satisfaction over time. Although own and partner gratitude were associated with higher levels of initial marital satisfaction when both spouses were high in gratitude, own and partner gratitude were unassociated with initial satisfaction if either spouse was low in gratitude. Further, gratitude was associated with more stable marital satisfaction when both partners were high in gratitude, partner gratitude was unassociated with changes in satisfaction when own gratitude was low and own gratitude was associated with steeper declines in satisfaction when partner gratitude was low. In fact, although initial gratitude was positively associated with marital satisfaction 3 years later if both spouses were high in gratitude, own initial gratitude was negatively associated with later satisfaction when partner gratitude was relatively low. These findings suggest low gratitude in one partner acts as a weak link that is sufficient to disrupt both partners’ relationship satisfaction.

Environmental Safety Threat Alters Mate Choice Processes in Humans: Further Evidence for the Environmental Security Hypothesis
Simon Reeve, Justin Mogilski & Lisa Welling
Evolutionary Psychological Science, June 2019, Pages 186–198


The Environmental Security Hypothesis (ESH) proposes that an individual’s mate preferences should shift depending on how secure they perceive their surroundings to be. Here, we extend previous work by leading participants to believe they would be required to handle either a snake (threat condition) or tame rabbit (control condition) and measuring various aspects of mate selection. People in the threat condition reported a greater preference for bodies with a higher proportion of muscle versus fat. Women in the threat condition, but not men, reported a greater preference for more masculine-shaped faces and lower self-perceived mate value. Men in the threat condition, but not women, reported a significantly lower preference for Status-Resources and Warmth-Trustworthiness partner traits, and lower self-perceived social status. Finally, although we did not fully replicate previous findings with respect to short-term mating interest in women, men in the threat condition reported both a more favorable attitude towards short-term mating and a less favorable attitude towards long-term mating. Results are interpreted in line with a context-flexible view of psychological adaptations influencing human mate selection processes.

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