Female Choice and Male Stoicism

Author(s): Susan G. Brown, Susan Shirachi, and Danielle Zandbergen

Abstract

Men consistently report that they are healthier than women but have higher mortality rates. We hypothesized that men were sexually selected to present themselves as healthy to possible mates, according to predictions from health selection theory. The present study tested this theory by contrasting known influences of female mate choice with male's reactions to a health problem (flu symptoms, reaction to vog (air pollution associated with volcanic emissions in the Hawaiian islands) or a headache). Participants viewed three sets of slides contrasting male facial symmetry, physique, and status with stoicism (defined as ignoring a health problem) and were asked to choose which male they preferred as a long-term or a short-term mate. Participants preferred stoic men who worked even though they were experiencing health problems as long-term mates, disregarding the male's facial symmetry and physique. Status also significantly affected long-term mate choice. In short-term mate choice, participants shifted their preferences to symmetrical faces and mesomorphic bodies, signals of attractiveness, disregarding stoicism. In conclusion, our data provide support for health selection theory. Additionally, preventive health measures directed at men should recognize their reluctance to recognize minor health problems and focus on techniques that enhance men's perception of their health symptoms.

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