Effects of partner beauty on opposite-sex attractiveness judgments

Anthony C. Little, Christine A. Caldwell, Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. Debruine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (SciVal)


Many studies show mate choice copying effects on mate preferences in non-human species in which individuals follow or copy the mate choices of same-sex conspecifics. Recent studies suggest that social learning also influences mate preferences in humans. Studies on heterosexual humans have focused on rating the attractiveness of potential mates (targets) presented alongside individuals of the opposite sex to the target (models). Here, we examined several different types of pairing to examine how specific social learning is to mate preferences. In Study 1, we replicated a previous effect whereby target faces of the opposite sex to the subject were rated as more attractive when paired with attractive than unattractive partner models of the same sex as the subject. Using the same paired stimuli, Study 2 demonstrated no effect of a paired model if subjects were asked to rate targets who were the same sex as themselves. In Study 3, we used pairs of the same sex, stating the pair were friends, and subjects rated targets of the opposite sex to themselves. Attractive models decreased targets' attractiveness, opposite to the effect in Study 1. Finally, Study 4 examined if attractive versus unattractive non-face stimuli might influence attraction. Unlike in Study 1, pairing with attractive stimuli either had no effect or decreased the attractiveness of paired target face images. These data suggest that social transmission of preferences via pairing with attractive/unattractive images is relatively specific to learning about mate preferences but does not influence attractiveness judgments more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1127
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Beauty
  • Facial attractiveness
  • Learning
  • Mate choice copying
  • Social transmission


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