Human Reproductive Strategy: BBS Call for Commentators

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Sun Mar 24 18:35:29 EST 1991

Below is the abstract of a forthcoming target article to appear in
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary
journal that provides Open Peer Commentary on important and
controversial current research in the biobehavioral and cognitive
sciences. Commentators must be current BBS Associates or nominated by a
current BBS Associate. To be considered as a commentator on this
article, to suggest other appropriate commentators, or for information
about how to become a BBS Associate, please send email to:

harnad at  or harnad at pucc.bitnet        or write to:
BBS, 20 Nassau Street, #240, Princeton NJ 08542  [tel: 609-921-7771]

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give some
indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring your
areas of expertise to bear if you are selected as a commentator.

     Douglas T. Kenrick           Richard C. Keefe
     atdtk at asuacad.bitnet         keefe at scc.bitnet
     Department of Psychology     Department of Psychology
     Arizona State University     Scottsdale College
     Tempe AZ 85287

Keywords: mate selection, gender differences, life history strategies,
evolution, sexual selection, social exchange, similarity, attraction

ABSTRACT: The finding that women are attracted to men older than
themselves whereas men are attracted to relatively younger women has
been explained by social psychologists in terms of economic exchange
rooted in traditional sex-role norms. An alternative evolutionary
model suggests that males and females follow different reproductive
strategies and predicts a more complex relationship between gender and
age preferences. In particular, males' preferences for relatively
younger females should be minimal during mating years but should
become more pronounced as the male gets older. Young females are
expected to prefer somewhat older males during their early years and
to change less as they age. We briefly review relevant theory and
present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds
support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences
expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction
with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines
cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon and finds the same
patter in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1
using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries and
India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from
1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Phillipines. Study 6
reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by
financially successful American women and men. We consider the
implications of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of
age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous
models to include the life history perspective.
Stevan Harnad INTERNET:  harnad at    harnad at
srh at    harnad at      harnad at princeton.uucp
BITNET:   harnad at pucc.bitnet           CSNET: at

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