Behavioral and Brain Sciences

The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism

Steven W. Gangestad a1 and Jeffry A. Simpson a2
a1 Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131
a2 Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843


During human evolutionary history, there were “trade-offs” between expending time and energy on child-rearing and mating, so both men and women evolved conditional mating strategies guided by cues signaling the circumstances. Many short-term matings might be successful for some men; others might try to find and keep a single mate, investing their effort in rearing her offspring. Recent evidence suggests that men with features signaling genetic benefits to offspring should be preferred by women as short-term mates, but there are trade-offs between a mate's genetic fitness and his willingness to help in child-rearing. It is these circumstances and the cues that signal them that underlie the variation in short- and long-term mating strategies between and within the sexes.

Key Words: conditional strategies; evolutionary psychology; fluctuating asymmetry; mating; reproductive strategies; sexual selection.