Buss Study: Differences in Human Mate Preferences

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PY2: Sex Differences in human mate preference
SECTION A: Question 1- Summarise the aims and context of Buss (12 marks)

Buss aimed to investigate if evolutionary explanations for sex differences in human mate preferences are found in varying cultures such as locations, ethnicity and religion. It was predicted that women preferred men who are ambitious, hardworking and financially well-off. Men preferred women who are young, attractive and chaste. Charles Darwin suggested that choosing a mate was a matter of evolution because it determined which members of species get to reproduce and pass on their genes to future generations. Thornhill and Thornhill proposed that individuals lacking preferred characteristics will not be selected to mate and will not become people’s ancestors. It also demonstrates the current direction of sexual selection, by letting us know which characteristics are desirable. Trivers believes that the characteristics that males and females find desirable are affected by ‘parental investment’ (how much time and effort the parents contribute to the development of their offspring). Females invest more time and energy in reproduction than men. Men invest as little as a few minutes of casual sex impregnating a woman who will carry the child for 9months and take the responsibility of raising the child to adulthood, therefore women tend to be fussier in their mate choice. Alexander and Noonan argue that females aim to seek a mate who can provide resources such as shelter, food and protection. These characteristics in a male will benefit the female with material advantages and also her offspring if the characteristics of acquiring resources are heritable. Willerman suggest that in human resources typically translate into earning potential. Women should therefore value characteristics such as ambition and hard working in potential mates. Fertility and Reproductive value are two factors important to men in mate selection. Men’s access to fertile females is the major factor affecting their chances of reproduction. The younger the woman, the longer she remains fertile and so the pressure on males to be able to identify a fertile woman is attached to external cues which relates to age and health. Symons cites that physical appearance associated with youth such as smooth skin, full lips, lustrous hair and behavioural indicators of youth such as high energy levels and give cues to males concerning the age and the reproductive capacity of females. Daly et al cite that sexual jealousy in males function to guard their mate from male competitors. Chastity is therefore a desirable characteristic for females to exhibit, as eventhough females are certain that the offspring is their own, males do not have this certainty.

SECTION A: Question 2- Outline the Procedures of Buss

Buss developed a questionnaire which consists of biographical data, mate preferences, rating scale and rank order of 13 characteristics. Biographical data is the respondent’s information such as age, sex and religion. Mate preferences are the information on the age at which the respondent preferred to marry and how many children were desired. Rating scale is where participants had to rate 18 characteristics such as good looks, chastity, good financial prospect and ambition. Rank order of 13 characteristics is where participants ranked their desirability in someone they might want to marry. Rank 1 was given to the most desirable characteristic, 13 to the 13th most desirable characteristic in a potential mate. Good earning capacity and physical attractiveness was amongst the 13 characteristics. Instructions was given to translators that when translating from English into the native language they must make all the terms ‘sex neutral’ rather than use terminology that might be linked to a specific sex for example, using ‘physically attractive’ instead of ‘handsome/beautiful’. Questionnaires was also amended to reflect the cultural differences of...
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