Women tend to perceive a man with an attractive romantic partner as more desirable, according to research published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.
The study of 245 female college students suggests that women use the presence of a romantic partner to infer that a man possesses unobservable, positive traits.
The female participants found men more desirable when they were shown with an attractive partner compared to when the men were shown alone. Men shown with an attractive partner tended to be viewed as more intelligent, trustworthy, humorous, wealthy, romantic, goal driven, adventurous, generous, and attentive to the needs of others.
PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Randi Proffitt Leyva of Texas Christian University. Read her explanation of the research below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
We were initially interested in this topic because of the common phrase you hear young women say, “All the good guys are taken”. This phrase assumes that if all the good guys are taken, then the women dating them must be keen on perceiving the qualities that make the men “good” and worth hanging on to. As such, we became interested in how women perceive men based on the quality and attractiveness of the woman whose attention he holds.
What should the average person take away from your study?
The average person should understand that human dating and mating decisions may not be as random as they may seem. These type of human behaviors are heavily influenced by social factors such as perceived quality of the partner by the self and others, in addition to many other factors such as physical attractiveness, social status, and resource acquisition abilities.
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
The current studies examined mate choice copying with women. While research shows that mate choice copying does occur in men, the specific processes that lead to the effect have yet to be examined. Additionally, we did not examine whether the mate choice copying effect is differentiated by short versus long term mating interests. While we didn’t test this specifically, we hypothesize that interest in long term mating drives the effect as women place greater priority in unobservable qualities—such as kindness, generosity, and resource access—in the context of long-term (compared to short-term) mating.
Lastly, this research relies on self-reported measures of mate desirability. Additional research is needed to examine whether these results translate to changes in mating behavior, with women being more or less likely to pursue mating opportunities with men who have been shown to be able to attract and maintain the romantic interest of attractive women.
The study, “Attractive Female Romantic Partners Provide a Proxy for Unobservable Male Qualities“, was also co-authored by Christopher D. Rodeheffer and Sarah E. Hill.