Mate selection is a centuries old ritual, yet the particulars still mystify many people. In the animal kingdom it seems much simpler. Mates are attracted to scents for the most part and in the majority of bird species the male attracts females with his colorful plumage. In the human world, mate selection is much more complex and often involves status symbols in addition to physical attributes. Does being wealthy make an individual more attractive? Does car or home ownership increase the attractiveness of an individual?
Many studies were conducted to answer the question of what influences the selection of a mate. It should come as no surprise to learn males are influenced by physical attractiveness while females are influenced more by a potential mate’s control over social and economic resources and his readiness to share them.
Females’ reproductive values are closely related to age and health; therefore, in early studies, theories concluded the females’ reproductive capabilities were reflected in physical attractiveness such as unblemished skin, lustrous hair, full lips, and white teeth. The reproductive values in males are not so limited and thus physical attractiveness was not as significant to females.
Other studies brought to light the nature of physical attractiveness as viewed by the different genders. It was hypothesized that females do not view physical attractiveness in the same way and perhaps this is why it is not scored as high in the importance of desired qualities. Researchers suggested females view status symbols as part of the physical attractiveness of males when selecting mates.
In today’s culture where women are now in the workforce with their own careers, it would seem studies would show a change in the preferences women would designate for potential mates. However, studies show this is not the case. Even women with a higher economic status seek mates with good financial prospects. Researchers are quick to point out this may be due to women desiring their mates to be at least equal in sharing the financial responsibilities of the families.
Study Results of Prestige-Car Ownership and Mate Selection
Studies show physically attractive women tend to marry men who have high occupational status. Regardless of the culture, studies show females are more attracted to mates with financial and material resources. In western societies, this is reflected in things such as bank accounts, home ownership and car ownership; whereas in other societies it is reflected in material resources specific to that culture.
Males perceive their attractiveness to females is influenced by status evident in the fact that males tend to make disparage their competition by pointing out their lack of career, lack of ambition or goals and displaying jealousy of those with more social dominance. Females on the other hand, point out physical limitations of their rivals.
Prestigious cars tend to attract attention from both genders. How does this play out in mate selection? In a 2008 survey conducted by the insurance company Ensure, 90% of drivers, both male and female, indicated cars were important status symbols. Luxury and sports cars such as Porsche, Bentley, and Mercedes as well as certain SUVs have high status value.
In a study conducted in Britain, participants were shown photos of models sitting in cars. The models were physically similar, but were sitting in either a red Ford Fiesta STs or silver Bentley Continental GTs. Results showed males were not significantly influenced by the car when determining the attractiveness of the model. However, females were more inclined to rate the model sitting in the more prestigious vehicle as more attractive.
The results of the numerous studies indicate females are much more inclined to view a male of wealth or one with higher economic status such as car or home ownership as more attractive as a potential mate. Prestige cars increase the status symbol of males which increase the perceived attractiveness by females.
These studies may help explain in part the coupling of what some may perceive as unlikely mates. Status symbols do influence mate selection in particular by females.
Dunn, Michael J. and Searle, Robert. “The Effect of manipulated Prestige-car Ownership on both Sex Attractiveness Ratings.” British Journal of Psychology vol. 101, (2010): 69-80.
Solomon, Henry and Herman, Lorraine. “Status Symbols and Prosocial Behavior: the Effect of the Victim’s Car on Helping.” The Journal of Psychology vol. 97, (1977): 271-273.
Todosijevic, Bojan, Ljubinkovic, Snezana, and Arancic,Aleksandra. “Mate Selection Criteria: A Trait Desirability Assessment Study of Sex Differences in Serbia.” Evolutionary Psychology vol. 1 (2003): 116-126.
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