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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Sally Street

Street, Sally E., Morgan, Thomas J. H., Thornton, Alex, Brown, Gillian R., Laland, Kevin N. & Cross, Catharine P. (2018). Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning. Scientific Reports 8(1): 1715.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Women appear to copy other women’s preferences for men’s faces. This ‘mate-choice copying’ is often taken as evidence of psychological adaptations for processing social information related to mate choice, for which facial information is assumed to be particularly salient. No experiment, however, has directly investigated whether women preferentially copy each other’s face preferences more than other preferences. Further, because prior experimental studies used artificial social information, the effect of real social information on attractiveness preferences is unknown. We collected attractiveness ratings of pictures of men’s faces, men’s hands, and abstract art given by heterosexual women, before and after they saw genuine social information gathered in real time from their peers. Ratings of faces were influenced by social information, but no more or less than were images of hands and abstract art. Our results suggest that evidence for domain-specific social learning mechanisms in humans is weaker than previously suggested.