Buss (1989) - Sex Differences In Human Mate Preferences

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 19-04-15 21:40

Buss (1989) - Aims & Context

  • Trivers (1972) said that sexual selection is driven, in part, by the different levels of investment males and females make in their offspring. Males make less investment because females carry the baby. A greater investment means that females are choosier.
  • Williams (1975) & Symons (1979) said that younger girls have a higher reproductive value; youthfulness is an indicator of fertility and reproductive value. It is easier to judge female fertility from appearance, so males value appearance more.
  • Daly et al (1982) said that sexual jealousy is a means of increasing paternity probability - it functions to 'guard' the mate. Preference of chastity in a potential mate is also another mechanism of paternal probability becuse males can then have certainty of parenthood.
  • The aim of Buss' study was:
    • To investigate if evolutionary explanations for sex differences in human mate preferences are found in cultures with varying ecologies, locations, and ethnicities, etc.
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Buss (1989) - Procedures

  • 37 samples across 33 countries, located on 6 continents and 5 islands.
  • 10,047 participants; 55 Iranian, 1491 American.The average sample size was 272. The age range was 17-29.
  • The sampling technique varied; different classes, areas, and relationship status'.
  • A questionnaire was used, with 2 instruments.
  • Instrument 1 - Rating:
    • Biographical Data: Age, sex, religion, etc.
    • Mate Preferences: Questions about age difference between mates, how many children they wanted, etc.
    • Rating Scale: Had to rate 18 characteristics on a 4 point rating scale.
  • Instrument 2 - Ranking:
    • Participants were asked to place 13 characteristics in rank order based on desireability.
  • There were 3 bilingual speakers; 1 translated the English questions into other languages, the 2nd translated the answers back into English. The 3rd resolved any discrepencies.
  • Some questions had to be added/altered due to culturual differences.
    • In Sweden, most couples don't marry but just live together.
    • Polygamy is common in Nigeria.
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Buss (1989) - Findings & Conclusions

  • Good Financial Prospects: 97% of females valued good financial prospects than males. Spain was an exception, but the difference was insignificant.
  • Ambition & Industriousness: 92% of females vauled ambition and industriousness than males did. The difference was significant at .05 level, providing support for this hypothesised sex difference.
  • Age Difference: All samples showed that men preferred younger mates. The mean age gap preference was 2.66years, the mean marrying age was 27.49years. This suggests that the ideal age was 24.83 years, which is closer to peak female fertility.
  • Good Looks: All samples showed that males rated looks higher than females did.
  • Chastity: 62% of males preferred mates to be chaste. No significance in the remaining samples.
    • Females valued the financial capacity of potential mates more than males did, due to the need of valuable resources.
    • Males valued physical attractiveness and relative youth more than females, suggesting cues related to fertility.
    • Buss' findings support evolutionary explanations of human behaviour; mating should differ according to gender.
    • The findings show males and females express preferences and that there are select advantages to that.
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Buss (1989) - Evaluating The Methodology

  • Method - Questionnaire:
    • Can collect the same information from a large number of people.
    • Closed questions may force participants to select answers that aren't representative of their actual thoughts.
  • Reliability:
    • Unreliable as it lacks 'Test ReTest' reliability because the questionnaire was only administed once. The answers can't be compared.
    • However, other studies have shown that mate choice is influenced by instincts to maximise successful reproduction.
  • Validity:
    • Concurrent Validity: Two separate measures were used to assess mate preferences, and the measures showed agreement with each other.
    • Low internal validity due to questions being read aloud in rural countries, so there could have been researcher bias.
  • Sample:
    • The mean age was early 20s, and younger people have different mating ideas. This means that the answers aren't representative, so the results can't really be generalised.
    • However, very large sample size minimises bias.
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Buss (1989) - Alternative Evidence

  • Cunningham et al (1995) - Supports:
    • They found a close agreement across cultural groups when rating female attractiveness.
  • Little et al (2007) - Develops:
    • They found that facial symmetry is a sign of genetic robustness, so it could be another indicator of fertility as it is a desirable characteristic.
    • So it is linked to more successful reproduction.
  • Universal Agreement - Contradicts:
    • Other reasearch has concluded that features associated with fertility are also associated with a 'baby face'.
    • We prefer this because it ensures that we care for our young.
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