The Structure and Content of Long-Term and Short-Term Mate Preferences


  • Peter K. Jonason
  • Gregory D. Webster
  • Amanda N. Gesselman


This study addresses two limitations in the mate preferences literature. First, research all-too-often relies on single-item assessments of mate preferences precluding more advanced statistical techniques like factor analysis. Second, when factor analysis could be done, it exclusively has done for long-term mate preferences, at the exclusion of short-term mate preferences. In this study (N = 401), we subjected 20 items designed to measure short- and long-term mate preferences to both principle components (n = 200) and confirmatory factor analysis (n = 201). In the long-term context, we replicated previous findings that there are three different categories of preferences: physical attractiveness, interpersonal warmth, and social status. In the short-term context, physical attractiveness occupied two parts of the structure, social status dropped out, and interpersonal warmth remained. Across short- and long-term contexts, there were slight changes in what defined the shared dimensions (i.e., physical attractiveness and interpersonal warmth), suggesting prior work that applies the same inventory to each context might be flawed. We also replicated sex differences and similarities in mate preferences and correlates with sociosexuality and mate value. We adopt an evolutionary paradigm to understand our results.