Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning

Sally E. Street, Thomas J. H. Morgan, Alex Thornton, Gillian R. Brown, Kevin N. Laland, Catharine P. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
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Women appear to copy other women’s preferences for men’s faces. This ‘mate-choice copying’ is often taken as evidence of psychological adaptations for processing social information related to mate choice, for which facial information is assumed to be particularly salient. No experiment, however, has directly investigated whether women preferentially copy each other’s face preferences more than other preferences. Further, because prior experimental studies used artificial social information, the effect of real social information on attractiveness preferences is unknown. We collected attractiveness ratings of pictures of men’s faces, men’s hands, and abstract art given by heterosexual women, before and after they saw genuine social information gathered in real time from their peers. Ratings of faces were influenced by social information, but no more or less than were images of hands and abstract art. Our results suggest that evidence for domain-specific social learning mechanisms in humans is weaker than previously suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1715
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2018


  • Mate choice
  • Social learning
  • Human behaviour
  • Cultural evolution


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