Annual Review of Psychology

70(1) January 2019DOI: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103408

David M Buss, David Schmitt

Abstract and figures

Evolved mate preferences comprise a central causal process in Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. Their powerful influences have been documented in all sexually reproducing species, including in sexual strategies in humans. This article reviews the science of human mate preferences and their myriad behavioral manifestations. We discuss sex differences and sex similarities in human sexual psychology, which vary according to short-term and long-term mating contexts. We review context-specific shifts in mating strategy depending on individual, social, and ecological qualities such as mate value, life history strategy, sex ratio, gender economic inequality, and cultural norms. We review the empirical evidence for the impact of mate preferences on actual mating decisions. Mate preferences also dramatically influence tactics of mate attraction, tactics of mate retention, patterns of deception, causes of sexual regret, attraction to cues to sexual exploitability, attraction to cues to fertility, attraction to cues to resources and protection, derogation of competitors, causes of breakups, and patterns of remarriage. We conclude by articulating unresolved issues and offer a future agenda for the science of human mating, including how humans invent novel cultural technologies to better implement ancient sexual strategies and how cultural evolution may be dramatically influencing our evolved mating psychology.