THURSDAY, Sept. 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- If you only have five minutes to pick a mate, you're likely to do it the way your ancestors did, with men seeking beauty and women looking for security, wealth and commitment.
It's an ancient formula but one still very much in play in modern "speed dating," said researchers reporting in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Evolutionary theories in psychology suggest that men and women should trade off different traits in each other, and when we look at the actual mate choices people make, this is what we find evidence for," researcher Peter Todd, cognitive scientist at Indiana University, said in a prepared statement. "Ancestral individuals who made their mate choices in this way -- women trading off their attractiveness for higher quality men and men looking for any attractive women who will accept them -- would have had an evolutionary advantage in greater numbers of successful offspring."
Speed dating involves sessions in which men and women have numerous "mini dates" with up to 30 different people, each date lasting anywhere from three to five minutes.
The research team used data from 46 adults in a speed-dating session in Germany to compare what people said they wanted in a mate with the qualities of the people they actually chose.
The study participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire before the session assessing themselves and their ideal mate according to traits such as physical attractiveness, present and future financial status, health and parenting qualities. According to the researchers, these traits are relevant to the evolution of the human species.
After every date, the participants were asked to note whether they would like to see the other person again.
Most people reported they wanted to find someone who was similar to themselves. However, once the session began, men demonstrated more interest in attractive women, while women targeted measures of wealth and security in proportion to how attractive they believed themselves to be.
In support of the notion that women are the choosier half of the species, women indicated they wanted to see every third potential mate, but men were open to seeing every second woman again.
Todd and his colleagues noted that among mammals, females are widely known to be more picky.
While the results were not surprising, the study showed the utility of using speed dating for research, the researchers wrote.
"Speed dating lets us look at a large number of mate choice decisions collected in a short amount of time," Todd said. "It only captures the initial stage of the extended process involved in long-term mate choice. But that initial expression of interest is crucial for launching everything else."
For more on dating and first impressions, visit the American Psychological Association.