Mate Choice Copying in Humans: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Mate choice copying (MCC) is a type of non-independent mate choice where the ‘probability of acceptance’ of a potential mate increases if they are observed to be chosen by others first. The phenomenon was first demonstrated in several non-human taxa, with studies on humans conducted shortly after. The effect has been consistently documented among women choosing men (female choice), with mixed results among men choosing women (male choice). To understand and test the overall level of support for MCC in humans, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, including a sensitivity analysis for publication bias.
We found that the two most commonly used methods of studying MCC in humans involved either the ‘addition’ of a cue (opposite sex other) or the ‘augmentation’ of cues (manipulating ‘mate quality’ of opposite sex other). We performed separate meta-analyses for these two approaches, splitting each into male choice and female choice.
Women were more likely to rate male targets as more desirable when presented alongside a female while no obvious effects were detected with male choice. These sex differences disappeared in studies that ‘augment’ cues, as both sexes rated targets as more attractive when in the presence of more desirable others. We also detected high levels of heterogeneity in effect sizes and a moderate publication bias in favor of positive reports of MCC.
Our results provide clarification for documented sex differences (or lack thereof) in human MCC. We also discuss the importance of method consistency in studies that transfer ideas from non-human to human behavioral studies, highlighting replication issues in the light of the publication crisis in psychological science.
KeywordsMate choice copying Mate preferences Sex differences Social judgment Desirability
This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant awarded to RCB.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
- Adair, L., Dillon, H., & Brase, G. (2017). I’ll have who She’s having: Mate copying, mate poaching, and mate retention. In M. L. Fisher (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of women and competition (pp. 31–336). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Dugatkin, L. A. (1996b). Interface between culturally based preferences and genetic preferences: Female mate choice in poecilia reticulata. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93(7), 2770–2773. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.93.7.2770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Dugatkin, L. A. (2000). The imitation factor: Evolution beyond the gene. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Fedorov, S. (2002). GetData Graph Digitizer version 2.24. Get data-graph-digitizer-com, Russia.Google Scholar
- Frazier, R. S., & Hasselman, F. (2015, April 21). Replication of Bressan & Stranieri (2008, PS, Study 2). found in Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251), aac4716. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac4716
- Higgins, J. P., & Green, S. (2008). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions (Vol. 5). Chichester, England ; Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Knight, J. (2000). Move over Casanova. Resourse Document. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16822684-500-move-over-casanova/. Accessed 15 March 2017.
- Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Caldwell, C. A. (2008). Social influence in human face preference: Men and women are influenced more for long-term than short-term attractiveness decisions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29(2), 140–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.11.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Caldwell, C. A. (2011b). Social learning and human mate preferences: A potential mechanism for generating and maintaining between-population diversity in attraction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 366(1563), 366–375. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Little, A. C., Caldwell, C. A., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2015). Observer age and the social transmission of attractiveness in humans: Younger women are more influenced by the choices of popular others than older women. British Journal of Psychology, 106(3), 397–413. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Milonoff, M., Nummi, P., Nummi, O., & Pienmunne, E. (2007). Male friends, not female company. make a man more attractive. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 44(5), 348–354.Google Scholar
- Moher, D., Liberati, A., Tetzlaff, J., Altman, D. G., & Grp, P. (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: The prisma statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(4), 264–W264. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-151-4-200908180-00135. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Place, S. S., Todd, P. M., Penke, L., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2010). Humans show mate copying after observing real mate choices. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 320–325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.02.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rodeheffer, C. D., Leyva, R. P. P., & Hill, S. E. (2016). Attractive female romantic partners provide a proxy for unobservable male qualities: The when and why behind human female mate choice copying. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(2), 147470491665214. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474704916652144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schmitt, D. P., & Members Int Sexuality D. (2004). Patterns and universals of mate poaching across 53 nations: The effects of sex, culture, and personality on romantically attracting another person's partner. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(4), 560–584. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Swaddle, J. P., Cathey, M. G., Correll, M., & Hodkinson, B. P. (2005). Socially transmitted mate preferences in a monogamous bird: A non-genetic mechanism of sexual selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 272(1567), 1053–1058. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Cambell (Ed.), Sexual selection & the descent of man (pp. 136–179). London: Heinemann Educational.Google Scholar
- Venables, W. N., & Smith, D. M. (2005). the R development core team. An Introduction to R. Notes on R: A Programming Environment for Data Analysis and Graphics.Google Scholar