Homosexual men view both highly fertile women and men as more attractive compared to women and men who are less fertile, according to new research published in Personality and Individual Differences. The findings suggest there are basic evolutionarily-rooted mechanisms that influence men’s perception of potential partners, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“Research from evolutionary psychology shows that people who fall into one’s mating scheme might be attractive. For example, women prefer a man with a high compared to a low status, even when their financial prospects would not suggest that they need a high status man,” explained study author Robin Rinn, a PhD student at the University of Wuerzburg.
“Scientists argue that this is because this was useful for women in the evolutionary history to survive. Compared to that, men appear to appreciate a woman’s fertility, because men are thought to have a high drive to reproduce with many different women who show cues of fertility. These cues are congruent with the male mating strategy, namely to maximize their offspring.”
“My colleagues and I noticed that research about the mating behavior of groups other than heterosexuals is lacking and decided to do a study about it ourselves,” Rinn said.
In the study, 64 homosexual and 60 heterosexual male participants were asked to view a purported profile of a woman from a fertility clinic and rate a variety of her characteristics, including physical attractiveness. The profile included information about her level of fertility along with information such as age, blood type, personality and a black and white photo. All the participants rated the same woman. But the profile varied in the level of fertility displayed.
“We used a profile-paradigm where we displayed a picture of a person and the alleged high or low fertility status of that person. The advantage of this approach was that we were able to keep many variables in the experiment constant,” Rinn explained.
Heterosexual participants rated the woman as more attractive compared to homosexual participants overall. But the researchers found that both homosexual and heterosexual participants rated the woman as more physically attractive when the profile claimed she had a high level of fertility.
The researchers replicated their findings in a second study with 124 homosexual and 100 heterosexual male participants. In addition, they found that homosexual men, but not heterosexual men, rated a man to be less attractive when his profile claimed he had a low level of fertility, compared to when information was provided that pointed to his high fertility or when no information was given.
The findings show that “homosexual people are not much different from heterosexual people,” Rinn told PsyPost.
“In fact, when we look into the research about that topic, it can be assumed that there are greater differences between men and women than there are between hetero- and homosexual people (e.g. Howard & Perilloux, 2016; Lippa, 2007; 2012). Personally, I hope that our research can help to reduce stereotypical views of homosexual people in showing that there are more similarities with heterosexuals than there are differences.”
But future research is necessary to generalize the results, Rinn added.
“It would be interesting to use real-life pictures of people who have already been rated in a previous research as highly and lowly fertile and see whether the results remain the same. If this is the case, this would be strong evidence for evolutionary psychology theories that assume that there are at least some fundamental psychological mechanisms that are inherited over centuries,” he explained.
The study, “Fertility as a cue for attractiveness in homo- and heterosexual men“, was authored by Robin Rinn, Fabian Kirsch, Maria Agthe, and Daniela Niesta Kayser.