Age also matters, such that the preference for youthful partners is more important for men than for women
Women have been found to be more likely to respond to personal ads placed by relatively older men, whereas men tend to respond to ads placed by younger women-men of all ages (even teenagers) are most attracted to women who are in their 20s. Younger people (and particularly younger women) are more fertile than older people, and research suggests that men may thus be evolutionarily predisposed to like them more (Buunk, Dijkstra, Kenrick, & Warntjes, 2001; Dunn, Brinton, & Clark, 2010; Kenrick & Li, 2000).
Another research finding consistent with the idea that men are looking for cues to fertility in their partners is that across many cultures, men have a preference for women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (i.e., large hips and a small waist), a shape that is likely to indicate fertility. On the other hand, women prefer men with a more masculine-appearing waist-to-hip ratio (similar waist and hip size; Singh, 1995; Swami, 2006). Recent research, however, has suggested that these preferences, too, may be in part due to a preference for averageness, rather than to a specific preference for a particular waist-to-hip ratio (Donohoe, von Hippel, & Brooks, 2009).
Men across a wide range of cultures are more willing, on average, to have casual sex than are women, and their standards for sex partners tend to be lower (Petersen & Hyde, 2010; Saad, Eba, & Se). , 2006). These differences may be influenced by differential evolutionary-based predispositions of men and women. Because they do not need to invest a lot of time in child rearing, men may be evolutionarily predisposed to be more willing and desiring of having sex with many different partners and may be less selective in their choice of mates. Women on the other hand, because they must invest substantial effort in raising each child, should be more selective.
And when asked about their regrets in life, men are more likely to wish they had had sex with more partners, whereas women more often than men wished they had tried harder to avoid getting involved with men who did not stay with them (Roese et al
But gender differences in mate preferences may also be accounted for in terms of social norms and expectations. Overall, on average, across the world as a whole, women still tend to have lower status than men, and as a result, they may find it important to attempt to raise their status by marrying men who have more of it. Men who, on average, already have higher status may be less concerned in this regard, allowing them to focus relatively more on physical attractiveness. Consistent with these arguments, some studies show that women’s preference for men of high status, rather than for physically attractive men, is greatest in cultures in which women are less well educated, poorer, and have less control over conception and family size (Petersen & Hyde, 2010).
You might find yourself wondering why people find physical attractiveness so important when it seems to say so little about what the person is really like as a person. If beauty is really only “skin deep,” as the proverb goes, why are we so concerned with it?
Evolutionary arguments suggest that women should be more selective than men in their choices of sex partners because they must invest more time in bearing and nurturing their children than do men (most men do help out, of course, but women simply do more; Buss & Kenrick, 1998)
One reason that we like attractive people is because they are rewarding. We like being around attractive people because they are enjoyable to look at and because being with them makes us feel good about ourselves. Attractiveness can imply high status, and we naturally like being around people who have it. Furthermore, the positive features of attractive people tend to “rub off” on those around them as a result of associational learning (Sigall & Landy, 1973).