Conditional mate choice strategies in humans: Evidence from ‘Lonely Hearts’ advertisements

David Waynforth, R. I.M. Dunbar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Advertisements from ‘Lonely Hearts’ columns in four US newspapers are used to test hypotheses about mate preferences by male and female humans. We first confirm conventional findings that, in general, men prefer young women whose reproductive value is high while women prefer men who are slightly older than themselves, that women seek resources while men seek physical attractiveness and that women are more choosy than men. We then go on to test a series of predictions derived from the hypothesis that an individual’s preferences in these respects are likely to be contingent on what he/she has to offer. We show that women tend to become less demanding as they age (probably because reproductive value declines with age), whereas males become more demanding (probably because resources increase with age), that women (but not men) offering cues of physical attractiveness make higher demands than those that do not, that men (but not women) offering resources make higher demands than those that do not, that men with few resources to offer attempt to offset this disadvantage by offering cues of family commitment, that men and women with dependent offspring make lower demands than those without and that individuals from higher socio-economic groups (who are likely to have more resources to offer) make more demands than those from lower socio-economic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-779
Number of pages25
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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