The Heart Has Its Reasons: Social Rationality in Mate Choice

Alison P. Lenton, Lars Penke, Peter M. Todd and Barbara Fasolo

in Simple Heuristics in a Social World

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195388435
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950089 | DOI:

Series: Evolution and Cognition Series

The Heart Has Its Reasons: Social Rationality in Mate Choice

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The specific circumstances in which an individual encounters their mate options may influence how she chooses and, ultimately, whom she chooses. In particular, the choice environment may affect the cues we pay attention to, how we combine them and, ultimately (and significantly), our reproductive fate. This chapter consolidates the current state of knowledge regarding choice environment effects on mating behavior. This chapter's thesis is that human mate choice is adapted to the choice environment in which it is made: We are sensitive to changes in the environment and adapt our judgments and choice strategies accordingly, thereby exhibiting ecological and social rationality—the topic of this volume. This chapter promotes the view that mating-related judgment and choice depend very much on the environmental conditions facing the chooser, while also being shaped by the past recurring conditions in which these behaviors evolved. To substantiate this perspective, the chapter describes anthropological, sociological, and psychological research showing that human mating-related judgments and choice are context-sensitive in meaningful ways. In particular, the chapter shows how the cues and strategies used in mate choice are influenced by environmental structure, considered first at the population level and second at the level of individual choosers. The chapter concludes by focusing in on one important aspect of the mate choice environment in specific modern settings and its impact on heuristic and cue use: the number of potential mates available.

Keywords: mate choice; social rationality; context effects; environmental influences; human psychology; decision making; too much choice; judgment and decision making; sex or gender; evolutionary psychology

Chapter.  10847 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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