- Feb 19, 2022
- 46d 5h 7m
Women’s Preferences for Strong Men Under Perceived Harsh Versus Safe Ecological ConditionsAbstract
Ray Garza1 , Farid Pazhoohi2 , and Jennifer Byrd-Craven1
Ray Garza1 , Farid Pazhoohi2 , and Jennifer Byrd-Craven1
Ecological conditions provide information about available resources for one’s environment. In humans, this has been shown to influence reproductive behavior, as individuals may engage in trade-offs between partner quality and investment. For instance, many women may trade-off preferences for men with physical features indicative of social dominance and health over physical features indicative of commitment and investment. The current study explored women’s preferences for formidable men under safe vs. harsh ecological conditions. Across three studies, U.S. university women (N ¼ 1,098) were randomly assigned to a perceived harsh or safe ecological condition. They were asked to rate the attractiveness of men’s body types (i.e., muscular vs. less muscular). Findings revealed that in general, women rated stronger men as more attractive than weaker men irrespective of the ecological condition. Evidence for preference as a function of ecology appeared only when a two-alternative forced-choice task was used (Study 3), but not in rating tasks (Studies 1 and 2). Study 3 showed that women had a relatively stronger preference for stronger men for shortterm relationships in a resource scarce ecological condition. This research provides some evidence that perceived ecological conditions can drive women’s preferences for men with enhanced secondary sex characteristics as a function of mating context. These findings are consistent with previous research indicating the importance of physical characteristics in men’s attractiveness, and it adds to the existing literature on ecological factors and mating preferences.
Women’s mate preferences are influenced by men’s physical features that convey indirect (i.e., genetic quality) and direct (i.e., resources acquisition) benefits (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Assessing men who display these physical features is an evolved mechanism that is used in mate choice, as these features may signal information to women about genetic quality and potential investment in a mate and offspring (Sell et al., 2017). For instance, women have shown biases toward men’s faces that display exaggerated sexual dimorphic characteristics (i.e., masculinity) and facial symmetry (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999). It is suggested that men with such features advertise a healthy genome (Jones et al., 2001; Scheib et al., 1999). Although research has suggested a “universal preference” for attractive physical features (Langlois et al., 2000), women’s preferences for attractive features in men may vary as a function of ecological conditions where trade-offs are made between choosing a mate with high-quality features (e.g., muscularity), over a mate who may be more willing to invest (Brooks et al., 2010; DeBruine et al., 2010; Marcinkowska et al., 2019).
Women’s mate preferences are influenced by their mating strategies that are nested within ecological conditions (Del Giudice et al., 2015; Kaplan & Lancaster, 2003; Little et al., 2011; Little et al., 2007; Marcinkowska et al., 2019; Voland, 1998), such as harsh environments (Little et al., 2007) and pathogen prevalence (Al-Shawaf et al., 2019; Lee & Zietsch, 2015; Watkins et al., 2012). Availability of resources can serve as cues in determining which strategy is optimal, such as considering choosing a partner who is highly investing over a partner who displays good genetics (Little et al., 2007; Quinlan, 2007). This trade-off may present advantages depending on the degree of unpredictability or harshness in one’s environment. Individuals in harsh environments may gain from faster reproductive strategies by selecting mates with good genetics and maximizing reproductive output is more beneficial due to the degree of unpredictability and high extrinsic mortality (Belsky et al., 1991; Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). Indeed, in harsh environments, women show preferences for men with masculine facial characteristics (Brooks et al., 2010; Dixson et al., 2017; Little et al., 2013). Women in harsher environments may choose men with masculine characteristics for direct benefits since exaggerated masculine characteristics are indicative of successful intra-sexual competition (Gangestad & Scheyd, 2005). Experimental evidence shows that women in a threatening condition report a preference for masculine characteristics (Reeve et al., 2019), as a consequence, impacting short- and long-term mating preferences (Thomas & Stewart-Williams, 2018). Women primed with male-male violence demonstrate a preference for masculine traits (Y. Li et al., 2014; Little et al., 2013), and women from countries with income inequality prefer men with masculine facial characteristics (Brooks et al., 2011). However, other studies have found no preferences for masculinity under perceived environmental threats signaling resource scarcity (Lee & Zietsch, 2015; Pazhoohi et al., 2021). However, a recent study found that women preferred feminine men under a pathogen environmental threat (Pereira et al., 2020). In environments with low harshness and extrinsic mortality, offspring are more likely to survive and reproduce, therefore, channeling investment and resources to offspring aids in their survival (Belsky et al., 1991).
An alternative perspective for environment contingent preferences suggests that ecological harshness may prompt reproductive strategies favoring high-investing partners (Geary et al., 2004; Mace, 2000). In environments with low resource availability and unpredictability, channeling resources from both parents may lead to increase survival of offspring (Kaplan & Lancaster, 2003). However, if extrinsic risk is too high (e.g., warfare, famine), parental effort in an ecologically harsh environment may not be beneficial; instead, channeling resources from parenting to mating effort may enhance fitness (Quinlan, 2007). Using resource scarcity to prime ecological harshness has shown that women favor traits associated with good-dad qualities (Lee & Zietsch, 2011). Further, women’s fear of crime is positively related to their preferences for formidable men as long-term mates, and this has been shown to not be influenced by experimental harshness manipulations (i.e., violent primes; Snyder et al., 2011). However, in safe ecological conditions, there may be fewer benefits from an investing partner, as resources have already been met and provided by the highresource environment (Little et al., 2007; Marcinkowska et al., 2019). This ecological contribution can influence reproductive strategies by engaging in short-term sexual encounters and channeling mate selection by focusing on optimal characteristics instead of high investment (Geary et al., 2004; Little et al., 2007). Research on women’s mate preferences under safe and harsh ecological conditions reveal that women prioritize masculine features for short-term mating under safe ecological conditions (Little et al., 2007). Favorable ecologies, as measured by high health and developmental indices, may influence preferences for masculine features as a function of dispositional short-term mating orientation (Marcinkowska et al., 2019). These findings are supportive of the perception that in safer ecologies, there may be fewer benefits from an investing partner, therefore, women channel their mate preference for men with desirable physical characteristics.
To further investigate the effects of ecological conditions on mating strategies (Geary et al., 2004; Little et al., 2007; Mace, 2000), we manipulate the effects of ecological differences (safe vs. harsh) on women’s preferences for men’s formidable features. Previous research has been limited in examining women’s mate preferences to men’s facial characteristics (e.g., Little et al., 2007; Marcinkowska et al., 2019). However, men’s bodily attractiveness can convey additional fitness information (Fink et al., 2010; Frederick & Haselton, 2007; Ho¨nekopp et al., 2007; Peters et al., 2007; Saxton et al., 2009; Snyder et al., 2011). Therefore, in the current study we aimed to fill this gap by extending the effect of perceived ecological harshness vs. safeness on mating strategy using men’s bodily traits. While harsh ecologies can prompt individuals to invest in faster reproductive strategies and focus their effort to mating and reproduction (Belsky et al., 1991), research has also suggested that women’s preferences for masculine men in safe ecologies is driven by short-term mating motivations (Geary et al., 2004;Little et al., 2007; Mace, 2000; Marcinkowska et al., 2019). Accordingly, we predict that 1) women in general rate stronger men as more attractive, and 2) their preference for strong men is associated with their mating strategies which is influenced by the ecological conditions. Specifically, we test these assumptions by looking at women’s preferences for strong or weaker men under perceived ecological harshness.
Study 1: Discussion
This study investigated women’s short-term mating orientation and their preferences for strong men under a safe or harsh ecological condition using vignettes. Hypothesis 1 predicted that stronger men would be rated more attractive compared to weaker men. This finding was supported, and it is consistent with previous research on women’s preferences for strong bodily traits (Dixson et al., 2003; Sell et al., 2017). The second hypothesis predicting differences in women’s preferences for strong men in different ecologies as a function of mating strategies, was not supported. Women’s mating orientation as measured by SOI-R, did not influence attractiveness to men under a safe or harsh ecological condition. However, there was partial support for women’s mating orientation predicting preferences for stronger men. Women with dispositional short-term mating strategies were more likely to rate stronger men as more attractive.
Study 2: Discussion
Study 2 investigated the role of mating strategy and ecology on women’s preferences for strong men. In addition to the ecological manipulation of Study 1, a slide show was used to depict a resource scarce and a violent ecology in Study 2. In addition, mating strategy was included to determine whether women’s preferences for strong men was influenced by considering them for a short or long-term relationship. Our main hypothesis was not supported. Women’s mate preferences were not influenced by perceived ecological condition and mating context. Overall, women considered strong men more attractive than weak men, regardless of mating context and ecological condition. This null result could be due to the experimental design (rating task), as it is suggested that perception of attractiveness might differ as the result of the study task where women are completing a forced-choice between pairs of men (Bartlett et al., 1960; Jones & Jaeger, 2019). Therefore, in the next study (Study 3), we used similar ecological manipulations but instead of a rating task, we asked participants to choose their preference on a twoalternative forced choice (2afc).
Study 3: Discussion
In Study 3, we used a forced choice design where participants were asked to choose which men they preferred under perceived ecological conditions and mating contexts. By using this paradigm, we were able to determine if stronger men were preferred over weaker men by comparison when primed with ecological and mating contexts. The results showed that women preferred stronger men for a short-term relationship in a resource scarce ecological condition.
Men’s physical features connoting strength provides information relating to indirect (i.e., genetic) and direct (i.e., resource acquisition) benefits in mate preferences. Given these cues, women should be sensitive to these physical features and indicate preferences for them, and they should be influenced by their mating strategies and ecological cues. Consistent with the importance of physical cues in mate choice, women preferred strong over weak men, and their preferences for strong men were associated with ecological cues when using an alternative forced-choice task.
Safe: “You are single, have a university degree, and do not have any children. Your parents and siblings are supportive and you get along well with them. You live in a neighborhood that is generally safe, relatively clean, quiet and well maintained. Your neighbors are OK, either friendly or keeping to themselves. You have a stable job; as far as you can tell you will remain employed for the foreseeable future. In general, you are happy at work and get along well with your boss and co-workers. Your job provides you with a steady income that meets your needs satisfactorily. You own your own flat and are able to pay your mortgage on time. You have some savings and/or investments and look forward to a reasonably secure future.”
Harsh: “You are single and you have no children. You left school at 16 years of age, which didn’t make your parents very happy, but that didn’t really matter since you didn’t get along with them anyway. In fact, you still don’t get along with them and barely get along with your siblings. At best, your family relationships could be described as distant and at worst conflicted. You live in a neighborhood that is dirty and noisy. The community areas are not well maintained, and some areas are even dangerous. Your neighbors are generally unfriendly or keep to themselves, but a few are quite nasty and you don’t like running in to them, which is sometimes unavoidable. You recently lost your job because of a combination of economic cutbacks as well as conflicts with your boss and coworkers. You only started this job a few months ago, and so are faced with unemployment yet again. From your previous job searches, you know that work is limited and you have no idea when you will be employed again. You rent a flat that needs repairs, but the landlord has refused to fix the problems, partly because you owe back rent. And this is not the only bill that has gone unpaid.”
that appendix is a direct kick in the nuts from the authors
its beyond fucking over for weaklingcels