The way individuals pair to produce reproductive units is a major factor determining evolution. This process is complex because it is determined not only by individual mating preferences, but also by numerous other factors such as competition between mates. Consequently, preferred and actual characteristics of mates obtained should differ, but this has rarely been addressed. We simultaneously measured mating preferences for stature, body mass, and body mass index, and recorded corresponding actual partner's characteristics for 116 human couples from France. Results show that preferred and actual partner's characteristics differ for male judges, but not for females. In addition, while the correlation between all preferred and actual partner's characteristics appeared to be weak for female judges, it was strong for males: while men prefer women slimmer than their actual partner, those who prefer the slimmest women also have partners who are slimmer than average. This study therefore suggests that the influences of preferences on pair formation can be sex-specific. It also illustrates that this process can lead to unexpected results on the real influences of mating preferences: traits considered as highly influencing attractiveness do not necessarily have a strong influence on the actual pairing, the reverse being also possible.
Preferred and actual mate characteristics
From Preferred to Actual Mate Characteristics: The Case of Human Body Shape