NCBI ROFL: Effects of stress on human mating preferences: stressed individuals prefer dissimilar mates.

By ncbi rofl | September 2, 2011 7:00 pm

Figure 1: Image editing procedure: the nude woman's detailed face (1) was morphed with the portrait picture of the participant (2). The morphing software produces two output images, a shape-only morph (3a) and a combined shape-colour morph (3b). In a second step, the shape-colour morph is used as a semi-transparent layer on top of the shape-only morph. All artefacts of the morphing procedure are eliminated. The resulting image (4) was photo-mounted on the woman's body in a last step (5). The resulting image was used as a stimulus (the image was not masked in the experiment).

“Although humans usually prefer mates that resemble themselves, mating preferences can vary with context. Stress has been shown to alter mating preferences in animals, but the effects of stress on human mating preferences are unknown. Here, we investigated whether stress alters men’s preference for self-resembling mates. Participants first underwent a cold-pressor test (stress induction) or a control procedure. Then, participants viewed either neutral pictures or pictures of erotic female nudes whose facial characteristics were computer-modified to resemble either the participant or another participant, or were not modified, while startle eyeblink responses were elicited by noise probes. Erotic pictures were rated as being pleasant, and reduced startle magnitude compared with neutral pictures. In the control group, startle magnitude was smaller during foreground presentation of photographs of self-resembling female nudes compared with other-resembling female nudes and non-manipulated female nudes, indicating a higher approach motivation to self-resembling mates. In the stress group, startle magnitude was larger during foreground presentation of self-resembling female nudes compared with other-resembling female nudes and non-manipulated female nudes, indicating a higher approach motivation to dissimilar mates. Our findings show that stress affects human mating preferences: unstressed individuals showed the expected preference for similar mates, but stressed individuals seem to prefer dissimilar mates.”

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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