[Paleopsych] BH: Men Avoid Marrying Strong Women

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Betterhumans > Study: Men Avoid Marrying Strong Women

Finding supports anecdotal evidence and reinforces evolutionary theory of
human mate selection

    Betterhumans Staff
    12/10/2004 3:20 PM

    Men don't want to marry powerful women, shows a new study that
    supports anecdotal evidence and reinforces evolutionary theories of
    human mate selection.

    The study highlights the importance of relational dominance in mate
    selection and discusses the evolutionary utility of male concerns
    about mating with dominant females.

    "These findings provide empirical support for the widespread belief
    that powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market
    because men may prefer to marry less accomplished women," says social
    psychologist and study lead author Stephanie Brown of the
    [3]University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    Subordinate attraction

    With the help of a grant from the US [4]National Institute of Mental
    Health, Brown and coauthor Brian Lewis from the [5]University of
    California, Los Angeles tested 120 male and 208 female undergraduates
    by asking them to rate their attraction and desire to affiliate with a
    man and a woman they were said to know from work.

    "Imagine that you have just taken a job and that Jennifer (or John) is
    your immediate supervisor (or your peer, or your assistant)," study
    participants were told as they were shown a photo of a male or a

    After seeing the photo and hearing the description of the person's
    role at work in relation to their own, participants were asked to use
    a nine-point scale (in which one is not at all, and nine is very much)
    to rate the extent to which they would enjoy going to a party with
    Jennifer or John, exercising with the person, dating the person and
    marrying the person.

    Brown and Lewis found that males, but not females, were most strongly
    attracted to subordinate partners for high-investment activities such
    as marriage and dating.

    Cautious investors

    "Our results demonstrate that male preference for subordinate women
    increases as the investment in the relationship increases," says
    Brown. "This pattern is consistent with the possibility that there
    were reproductive advantages for males who preferred to form long-term
    relationships with relatively subordinate partners.

    "Given that female infidelity is a severe reproductive threat to males
    only when investment is high, a preference for subordinate partners
    may provide adaptive benefits to males in the context of only
    long-term, investing relationships--not one-night stands."

    According to Brown, the findings are consistent with earlier research
    showing that expressions of vulnerability enhance female
    attractiveness. "Our results also provide further explanation for why
    males might attend to dominance-linked characteristics of women such
    as relative age or income, and why adult males typically prefer
    partners who are younger and make less money."

    The research is reported in the journal [6]Evolution and Human
    Behavior ([7]read abstract).


    3. http://www.umich.edu/
    4. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
    5. http://www.ucla.edu/
    6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10905138
    7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2004.08.003

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