Sexual strategies theory: an evolutionary perspective on human mating

Psychol Rev. 1993 Apr;100(2):204-32. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.100.2.204.


This article proposes a contextual-evolutionary theory of human mating strategies. Both men and women are hypothesized to have evolved distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie short-term and long-term strategies. Men and women confront different adaptive problems in short-term as opposed to long-term mating contexts. Consequently, different mate preferences become activated from their strategic repertoires. Nine key hypotheses and 22 predictions from Sexual Strategies Theory are outlined and tested empirically. Adaptive problems sensitive to context include sexual accessibility, fertility assessment, commitment seeking and avoidance, immediate and enduring resource procurement, paternity certainty, assessment of mate value, and parental investment. Discussion summarizes 6 additional sources of behavioral data, outlines adaptive problems common to both sexes, and suggests additional contexts likely to cause shifts in mating strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Problem Solving
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Values