Effects of mating context and self-rated mate-value on human mate assessment (#114)
Previous research has demonstrated that while women prefer to look at the face of men regardless of relationship context, men increase their preference for looking at women’s bodies when judging for short-term relationships over long-term. This has been argued to reflect the fact that cues to short-term fertility are more reliably signalled by bodies than by faces. In two studies, we probed this effect in more detail. In study 1, 266 volunteers completed an online measure of preferences for information from the face or body in short-term or long-term contexts, and various self-rated mate value measures. Information from the body was more important in short-term contexts for males (but not females), and correlated positively with mating strategy measures. Both sexes overestimated the opposite-sex’s preference for looking at the body, but women's estimates accurately reflected the effect of short- or long-term context on male preferences. In study 2, men were asked to consider the likelihood that they would engage in a short-term relationship with one set of female stimuli, and a long-term relationship with another set (order was counter-balanced between participants). Within each relationship context, men were presented with 5 images of women wearing modest clothing (shoulders, cleavage, and legs covered), and 5 images of women in revealing clothing (at least one of these regions revealed), and their eye movements were recorded. Results showed that men spent less time examining the face, and more time examining the bodies of women wearing revealing (vs. modest) clothing in the short-term context, but revealed no difference between clothing types for the long-term condition. Men of high self-rated mate value also spent more time (than did men of low self-rated mate value) looking at faces than at bodies, irrespective of clothing style or mating context.