For some time, evolutionary psychologists have hypothesised that men and women have evolved two distinct mating strategies: long-term committed mating and short-term casual mating). Furthermore, humans are thought to "switch" between these two strategies when their circumstances change, in order to maximise their fitness. Recently, we were able to demonstrate this capacity in the laboratory in a series of experiments. In the experiments men and women had their short- and long-term mating preferences recorded before and after exposure to stimuli. These stimuli were related to environmental factors thought to have affected the success of long- and short-term mating in the ancestral environment (e.g. danger, resource availability, and parental care).
These experiments started to fill a gap in the evolutionary psychological literature identified by experts in the area over 18 years ago. However, these are only the beginning. Out lab is now exploring this capacity further using different evolutionarily relevant stimuli, better experimental design, and different measures of long- and short-term mating preference.
A deeper understanding of what causes individual variance in mating preferences may shed light on topics such as risky sexual behaviour and affairs/marital dissolution.
Thomas-lab researchers currently exploring this issue
Publications related to this research area
Thomas, A. G., & Stewart-Williams, S. (2018). Mating strategy flexibility in the laboratory: Preferences for long- and short-term mating change in response to evolutionarily relevant variables. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(1), 82-93. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.10.004 [link]
Thomas, A.G. (2010). Variability of human mating Strategies: Can animal studies lead us down the path to promiscuity? PsyPAG Quarterly, 75, 5-9. [.pdf]