Are men in pinstripes more marriage-worthy?

Posted in news by jenapincott on September 8, 2009

There’s a new twist on that classic McDonald’s experiment, the one in which there are two photos of a guy; in the first he’s dressed in a Mickey D’s uniform and in the second he looks like a banker. Women are asked to judge the man’s physical attractiveness and — surprise! — he gets much higher attractiveness ratings when he’s wearing a suit.

In the current study by evolutionary psychologist Murray Millar at the University of Nevada, women behaved similarly. This time, 123 female judges were shown photos of three men seeking a partner. A description accompanied the photo of each man, containing general biographical information (e.g. place of birth, food preferences), a statement about what type of relationship he was seeking (long-term or short-term), and his profession, which was either high-status (doctor, banker, lawyer) or low-status (salesman, janitor).

No shocks here: As Millar suspected, women, when primed to think about a long-term relationship, found men more attractive when they were described as having a high-status profession than a low-status one. For a fling, the ladies gave men more-or-less equal attractiveness ratings regardless of profession. These results, Millar concluded, are in keeping with the evolutionary argument that women have different mating strategies. For long-term relationships, women implicitly place more value on social status and resources that may benefit her child. For short-term relationships, women place more value on cues of genetic value such as physical attractiveness. In the latter condition, it doesn’t matter so much if he cleans toilets or flips burgers for a living. They’re lovin’ it.

But it’s not always so simple, as I describe in BLONDES. Hormonal cycles may subtly push or pull us in unexpected directions. Don’t forget the UCLA study in which women who were in their peak fertile window (around ovulation) found poor creative men more attractive than rich boring ones, at least in the short term. As evolutionary psychologists suggest, mating isn’t always binary. That is, some women may pursue more than one strategy at once: marry a stable office worker and have curiously-timed flings with hunky down-and-out artists (or burger flippers).

Perceptions may also shift. As women becoming more economically independent, they may find high-dominance males less desirable in a marriage context. Better, perhaps, to have a man who’s around more to change diapers. Even now, given the cause of the current recession, pinstripes might not be so marriage-worthy.

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