Men want beautiful women, and women are drawn to rich men.
It’s a stereotype, to be sure—but one that’s been backed up again and again by scientific research. And these mating preferences might be more ingrained than we think: A new study, released this month and scheduled to be published in the January issue of Personality and Individual Differences journal, suggests our preferences for long-term partners are—by far—more consistent with gender than with any other attribute.
In a survey of nearly 28,000 straight men and women in the US aged 18 to 75, the study’s researchers (a team of social, behavioral, and health scientists from UCLA, Chapman University, Indiana University and Rutgers University) found what psychologists and matchmakers have long suspected. Behold, the differences in male and female preferences:
Participants’ gender clearly divided their preferences, while other characteristics like education, income level, and self-confidence didn’t lead to nearly as much a difference in what people wanted from potential partners. Older people’s preferences were weaker than those of their younger peers—but still consistently parted along gender lines.
“One thing we found is that the importance people placed on looks and income lessened among older men and women,” David Frederck, one of the study’s authors, tells Quartz. “One interpretation of this finding is that as people get older, they start placing less importance on looks and money and relatively more importance on having a wonderful companion they can count on through thick and thin.”
Interestingly, though men valued having a good-looking mate more than women, both men and women had the same rate of response (40% and 42%, respectively) to whether it was a “must-have” that their partner be specifically attractive to them.
Previous research also shows that people, no matter how objectively attractive, can become more physically attractive over time to those who love them. In that case, even if our initial preferences for romantic partners are divided by gender, perhaps love prevails in the end.