Friday, October 10, 2008

We seek mates that resemble our opposite-sex parents.

The research highlights section of Nature points to work by Bereczkei and his colleagues at the University of Pécs in Hungary who find new evidence linking partner choices to parental appearance. By measuring 14 facial proportions of 312 adults from 52 families, Bereczkei et al. show significant correlations in appearance between young men and their partner's father and young women and their partner's mother. This supports the theory that children are imprinted with their opposite-sex parent's face. The abstract from Proc. Roy. Soc. B:
Former studies have suggested that imprinting-like processes influence the shaping of human mate preferences. In this study, we provide more direct evidence for assessing facial resemblance between subjects' partner and subjects' parents. Fourteen facial proportions were measured on 312 adults belonging to 52 families, and the correlations between family members were compared with those of pairs randomly selected from the population. Spouses proved to be assortatively mated in the majority of measured facial proportions. Significant correlations have been found between the young men and their partner's father (but not his mother), especially on facial proportions belonging to the central area of the face. Women also showed resemblance to their partner's mother (but not to their father) in the facial characteristics of their lower face. Replicating our previous studies, facial photographs of participants were also matched by independent judges who ascribed higher resemblance between partners, and subjects and their partners' opposite-sex parents, compared with controls. Our results support the sexual imprinting hypothesis which states that children shape a mental template of their opposite-sex parents and search for a partner who resembles that perceptual schema. The fact that only the facial metrics of opposite-sex parents showed resemblance to the partner's face tends to rule out the role of familiarity in shaping mating preferences. Our findings also reject several other rival hypotheses. The adaptive value of imprinting-related human mating is discussed, and a hypothesis is made of why different facial areas are involved in males' and females' search for resemblance.

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