Macquarie University
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Mate trade-offs: the impact of physical disabilities on preferences in the mating market

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:01 authored by Agnes S. Kim
Men and women have distinct preferences for certain traits in their romantic partners, which can be elegantly explained by evolutionary theories of sexual selection. Specifically, men and women highly value the mate characteristics of warmth, attractiveness, and resources in a relationship partner, which all enhance their reproductive fitness. By manipulating different combinations of these attributes, the current research aimed to examine thresholds of acceptance and desirability in different temporal relationship contexts. It also explored the effect of a previously unexplored cue to health, a physical disability, on mating preferences. In Study One, 568 participants were shown a photograph of a stimulus person, either with or without a physical disability, paired with manipulated descriptions of economic status and warmth. They were asked to indicate their willingness to engage in both a short-term and long-term relationship with the individual in the vignette, as well as complete questionnaires on sociosexuality and social desirability. The results showed the importance of warmth in the long-term for both men and women, the value of economic status for women in the long-term, the significance of health on short-term relationships, and predicted individual variations according to sociosexual orientation. However, when the effects of social desirability were taken into consideration, health was not found to have an effect on the reported desirability of short-term relationships. Study Two used a slightly different methodology to replicate the findings from Study One with a different sample of 566 participants, and explored the impact of heritability on both short-term and long-term relationship preferences. The results from Study Two generally replicated the results from Study One, with the exception of health. The impact of a physical disability, whether inherited or not, was not found to be significant in Study Two, nor did social desirability. By exploring the evolutionary logic behind disability-based prejudice in relationships, the current studies aimed to contribute to the existing knowledge on mate preferences and deepen our understanding about the contemporary negative attitudes towards relationships with individuals with disabilities.


Table of Contents

1. General literature review -- 2. The impact of health and disease cues on mating preferences -- 3. Study one -- 4. Study two -- 5. General discussion -- References -- Appendices.


This thesis is presented as a partial fulfilment to the requirements for the Doctorate of Counselling Psychology" Includes bibliographical references "April, 2013

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis DPsych


DPsych (Counselling), Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Julie Fitness


Copyright Agnes S. Kim 2013 Copyright disclaimer:




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