"The Future of an Applied Evolutionary Psychology for Human Partnerships"
Review of General Psychology (in press).
There has been significant recent progress in our understanding of human mate choice. We outline several frontiers of rapid cultural change which may increasingly directly affect individual selfevaluation in the mating market, formation and maintenance of long-term partnerships, and potentially reproductive outcome and child health. Specifically, we review evidence for the effects of (1) increasing exposure to mass media, (2) the advent of novel ways to meet potential partners, and (3) cultural influences which may disrupt or alter the expression of evolved mate preferences. We comment on the potential for these effects to influence self-perception and partner-perception, with downstream effects on relationship satisfaction and stability. ....
1) Effects of mass media on self-perception and relationship dissatisfaction.
Mass media (films, magazines, etc.) present unrealistic distributions of desirable others. Recent research demonstrates that media exposure can have negative consequences for selfassessments, partner-assessments, relationship satisfaction, mental health, body image, and relationship behaviors.... The combined effects of increases in divorce, serial dating, depression and anorexia may contribute to great societal change.
2) Globalisation, isolation and modern mating markets.
.. it seems likely that innovations such as personal advertisements and speeddating may tend to emphasise short-term judgements and the importance of physical attributes over gradual relationship building and the importance of complementary emotional and personality characteristics.
3) Disruption of evolved preferences.
- Cultural influences and evolved preferences: One example of an effect of cultural change on underlying preferences is the use of hormonally-based contraception and its apparent consequences on a user's behavior. ... Several studies show that pill users make different mate choices, on average, compared to non-users .... pill users show similar preferences to those of pregnant women.
Perhaps the most-widely reported difference attributed to pill use is that of women's
preference for the body odour of men who share a relatively high proportion of genes at a specific genetic region known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex, or MHC.
non-users preferred odours of MHC-dissimilar men, as found in other animals, but that pill users displayed the opposite trend.
Please also see:
1) "Human oestrus" Gangestad & Thornhill (2008)
"Only short-term but not long-term partner preferences tend to vary with the menstrual cycle"
2) "Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans?" Alvergne & Lummaa (2009)
".. whereas normally cycling women express a preference for MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) dissimilarity in mates, pill users prefer odours of MHC-SIMILAR men, indicating that pill use might eliminate adaptive preferences for genetic dissimilarity."