Warm and homely or cold and beautiful? Sex differences in trading off traits in mate selection

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2004 Jun;30(6):659-72. doi: 10.1177/0146167203262847.


Prior research and theory suggest that people use three main sets of criteria in mate selection: warmth/trustworthiness, attractiveness/vitality, and status/resources. In two studies, men and women made mating choices between pairs of hypothetical potential partners and were forced to make trade-offs among these three criteria (e.g., warm and homely vs. cold and attractive). As predicted, women (relative to men) placed greater importance on warmth/trustworthiness and status/resources in a potential mate but less importance on attractiveness/vitality. In addition, as expected (a) ratings of ideal standards partly mediated the link between sex and mate choices, (b) ideal standards declined in importance from long-term to short-term relationships, with the exception of attractiveness/vitality, and unexpectedly, (c) sex differences were higher for long-term (compared to short-term) mate choice. Explanations and implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Personality*
  • Sex Factors
  • Truth Disclosure