Mate Choice and Human Stature: Homogamy as a Unified Framework for Understanding Mating Preferences

Evolution. 2010 Aug;64(8):2189-203. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.00985.x. Epub 2010 Feb 26.


Assortative mating for human height has long attracted interest in evolutionary biology, and the phenomenon has been demonstrated in numerous human populations. It is often argued that mating preferences generate this pattern, but other processes can also induce trait correlations between mates. Here, we present a methodology tailored to quantify continuous preferences based on choice experiments between pairs of stimuli. In particular, it is possible to explore determinants of interindividual variations in preferences, such as the height of the chooser. We collected data from a sample of 200 individuals from France. Measurements obtained show that the perception of attractiveness depends on both the height of the stimuli and the stature of the individual who judged them. Therefore, this study demonstrates that homogamy is present at the level of preferences for both sexes. We also show that measurements of the function describing this homogamy are concordant with several distinct mating rules proposed in the literature. In addition, the quantitative approach introduced here fulfills metrics that can be used to compare groups of individuals. In particular, our results reveal an important disagreement between sexes regarding height preferences in the context of mutual mate choice. Finally, both women and men prefer individuals who are significantly taller than average. All major findings are confirmed by a reanalysis of previously published data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Height / genetics*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*