Robert Bowers, Skyler Place, Peter Todd, Lars Penke and Jens Asendorpf

Generalization in mate-choice copying in humans

Behavioral Ecology

There is much evidence that humans, as other species, are affected by social information when making mate-choice decisions. Witnessing a rival show interest in a member of the opposite sex tends to lead human observers of both sexes to thereafter rate that person as more appealing as a potential mate. However, how this occurs is not well understood. We investigate whether this effect is specific to the individual witnessed or will generalize to other potential mates with shared characteristics-that is, whether humans exhibit trait-based or just individual-based mate-choice copying. We found that whereas this kind of generalization did occur with some traits, it appeared to depend on age, and conspicuously, it did not occur with (inner) facial traits. We discuss possible explanations for the age specificity and cue specificity in terms of informational benefits and how people attend to unfamiliar faces.