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June 16th, 2010
12:29 PM ET

Mate choice influenced by others

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

You may have found a celebrity more attractive after reading that he or she is in a good relationship. Or maybe you've paid a little more attention to someone in your social circle after you've seen a significant other on his or her arm.

A new study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggests that humans, like fish and birds, engage in "mate copying," meaning another person's successful search for a partner can influence your own mate preference.

Researchers looked at 40 men and 40 women - a relatively small sample size. First, participants rated photos of eight members of the opposite sex in terms of their potential for a short-term or long-term relationship. Then, people in the study watched videos of each person they had rated interact with someone else in a speed date.

Participants judged how romantically interested the daters were in each other in each interaction, and then re-rated the person of the opposite sex based on short-term and long-term relationships.

Researchers found that participants were likely to rate daters higher who had been on what they deemed a successful date - an example of mate copying.

"Our results suggest that both men and women are influenced by social information when making both short-term and long-term relationship attractiveness judgments," the authors said.

There were some noticeable gender differences, however. Men showed an increase in relationship interest regardless of how they judged the interaction of the date; women, on the hand, had a diminished interest when they perceived that the daters were not interested in each other. They upped their relationship rating for the man in the example only when the individuals appeared to be mutually interested.

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Really? When I see someone on a date or in a relationship, I view them as not available, not more attractive. Strange

    June 16, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Tracy

    So lemme get this straight.. all of this money was used on a study to find that Women are more attracted to men who are into someone else?

    June 16, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Pirogi

    So really, this study showed that men are always interested in women, whereas women's interest in men increases when they seem to possess at least some emotional depth. I disagree (based on the info here) that the conclusion is that people (women) are likely to mate-copy. To me, it shows that when an attractive man turns out to be a personality dud, a woman moves on. Didn't we already know this?

    June 16, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ray

    No different than animals...after all.

    June 16, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Happysoul

    Viewing a video of a person regardless of whether they are interacting on a date or just talking is enough to influence a person's opinion of them more so than a still photo.

    June 16, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Phil

    Its nice to know that Cancer, AIDS, MS, and every other debilitating disease has been cured and our top minds can now spend their time researching the best chance to getting laid.

    Awesome!

    June 16, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jim

    I'm not surprised and could have predicted this result. Have you ever noticed that when a woman divorces a man she doesn't want anyone else to have him. However, generally when another female shows interest she will decide to either hate his guts or take him back.

    June 16, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. junior

    This just in...people often become more or less attracted to a person after finding out more about them...

    June 16, 2010 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. GypsyKing

    Wow, some real stretches are made with these findings. That sample size is less than 1/4 of guys and girls at my neighborhood bar on a Wednesday night here in Tampa.
    Just as men showed an increase in relationship interest regardless of how they judged the interactions, women on the other hand had a diminished interest when they perceived the daters were not interested in each other. This is an example of Social Value, plain and simple; women are unconsciously attracted to a man if another woman finds him attractive and without even understanding why they do the opposite – consider him to be less attractive, i.e., less valuable to her, because another woman indicated she doesn't like him.
    Men don't work this way – they base their attraction towards another woman far less on social value than on other factors, that's why there are always several guys for every girl, regardless of any other qualities she may possess other than being a female.
    I don't know where they come up the term "mate copying," but it sounds like marketing hype and a catchey way to try to explain why women will Always want a guy who other women value (attractive).

    June 16, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. satirev

    Seems to be a slighlty different take on what other researchers, and just plain attention to everyday human behavior, have shown. Women are more attracted to married/attached men than they are single men. Men are usually less attracted to married/attached women.

    June 16, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jorge

    That may mostly may be true for certain young women with less experience at relationships who respond more readily to peer trends, but more mature women and most men will base their selections solely on attraction and compatibility and in effect put someone who seems to be already emotionally involved on the back burner.

    June 16, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jorge

    Phil-So you're telling us that we we shouldn't have sex, just sit around wondering why and when we're going to get sick??

    June 16, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Yeahimright

    "Wait!" The study isn't over until they start assigning personality types to the subjects. They should have also gotten a preference baseline to expose biases. I'm sure that pretty girls are always good for the short term even if they are a zombie. LOL, Now that we all know the underlying influences and intricacies of social interaction we can move on with confidence. LOL

    June 16, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kyle

    Thank You correspondent junior! FINALLY! My questions about relationships have been answered!!!

    June 16, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Oregon

    Hey Jim, you or ANY other male or female may have my ex husband. He has all his teeth has dropped the 30 extra pounds he'd been carring for years, good goverment job, nice truck and ZERO appeal to me. I'm just saying....that shalt not use the "always" and "never" statements

    June 16, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jeremy

    Women see a man who IS desired as being desirable. They take cues from other women. Anyone who has taken psychology already knew this. All this article shows is that the journal Evolution and Human Behavior is a joke, doing studies on already known facts, and that they should not be called "researchers."

    June 16, 2010 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. brian

    Junio – read more carefully... it states women became LESS interested when they found out more, and the date did not go well.

    June 16, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Anonymous Coward

    Coincidentally, there are a news story in the business section about how HR departments typically rank the unemployed lower than the already successfully employed. "Thou shalt hit those who already have been hit again and again" apparently works for a typical anti-compassionate human.

    June 16, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mystery

    It's called jealousy plot.

    June 16, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. slim jim

    Odd most people want what they cant have. so if someone is in a relationship, they want them and when they get them, they dont want them anymore. its all about the chase.

    June 16, 2010 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Josh

    Um this study is ridiculous. What are they going to, increase their opinion of the people who had "bad" dates? When you're only given one criteria to judge a group by, of course you're going to favor the more successful ones, regardless of what that criteria is. If there were videos of these people mowing the lawn, the opinion would increase for those who mowed the lawn the best. It has to be compared to other equally important factors such as looks and income and personality, for it to be meaningful at all.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DON ELLIOTT

    THE DATA COLLECTED IN ALL STUDIES CAN BE MANIPULATED TO GET THE DESIRED RESULTS......HOWEVER IF ONE ALLOWS OTHERS TO HELP DETERMINE THIER CHOICES...ITS VERY SIMPLE SUCH PERSONS ARE NOT CAPABLE OF MAKING DECISIONS FOR THEMSELVES.

    June 17, 2010 at 05:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. sri

    if this is true, women are so superficial. i am single. Does this make me a bad mate in the eyes of other girls? Thats too bad for them. their loss.

    June 17, 2010 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Kraig Rasool

    This is simply not the case for me...as I tend to follow my own standards when choosing a mate. I come from a father and mother
    who have been married for many years...in fact too many I sometimes
    think. So stability is a definite factor for me, Im not at all influenced
    by what others may have to say or think...or by seeing the person thru
    different eyes supposing they were with someone else. I just think
    its an individual thing( at least for me)... For some I also think being
    alone for a long time tends to hasten your decision especially if the
    other person says and does what you want them to do....No one really
    wants to live alone in this world...everyone wants to be in that special
    relationship where the rest of the world envys you.

    June 17, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. John J.

    Every guy knows that the best "bait" for attracting women is an attractive woman.

    June 18, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don

      Or maybe it's not being a manipulative punk. Women can see through BS far easier than you think.

      August 5, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse |

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.