cSCAN Rounds

The evolution of human mate choice: How parents and expected age at menopause can influence your love life.

The first study explores the parent-offspring conflict over mate choice. The theory of parent-offspring conflict predicts that preferences for potential mates may differ between parents and their offspring, especially with respect to the importance of investment potential and the biological quality of a mate. Indeed, individuals are expected to value biological quality more in their own mates than in their offspring’s mates, and to value investment potential more in their offspring’s mates than in their own mates. We tested this hypothesis in China using a naturalistic “marriage market” where parents actively search for marital partners for their offspring. Parents gather at a public park in order to advertise the characteristics of their adult children, looking for a potential son or daughter-in-law. To experimentally investigate parent-offspring conflict in mating preferences, we presented parents and young adults from the city of Kunming (Yunnan, China) with hypothetical mating candidates varying in their levels of income (as a proxy for investment potential) and physical attractiveness (as a proxy for biological quality). The second study focuses on the role of residual fertility on female attractiveness. A great number of studies have shown that features linked to immediate fertility explain a large part of the variance in female attractiveness. This is consistent with an evolutionary perspective, as men are expected to prefer females at the age at which fertility peaks (at least for short-term relationships) in order to increase their reproductive success. However, for long-term relationships, a high residual reproductive value (the expected future reproductive output, linked to age at menopause) becomes relevant as well. In that case, young age AND late menopause are expected to be preferred by men. However, the extent to which facial features provide cues to the likely age at menopause has never been investigated so far. Here, we show that expected age at menopause is linked to facial attractiveness of young women. As age at menopause is heritable, we used the mother’s age at menopause as a proxy for her daughter’s expected age of menopause.