Men prefer pretty while women look for financial stability
One study of more than 27,600 heterosexual people in the US, published by a team of health, social and behavioral scientists at UCLA, Chapman University, Indiana University and Rutgers University, asked respondents to rate the importance of different characteristics in a long-term partner. It found people's preferences were more consistent with gender than with age, income, education or satisfaction with their own appearance.
Brendan Zietsch, a researcher in evolutionary psychology at the University of Queensland, said the findings were "very unsurprising", with numerous studies demonstrating similar results.
When it comes to choosing a mate, both men and women try to "maximise their genetic contribution to future generations", Dr Zietsch said.
"Men can do this by partnering with women possessing cues of youth and fertility, and so have evolved to find such cues attractive and important, whereas women can do this by partnering with men with resources to maximise the survival and mating prospects of their children."
Older men also placed less importance than younger men on a partner with a steady income. But the opposite was true of women. Women's preference for a man with a steady income was weakest at age 18, increased up to age 40, then slowly declined. However, it remained higher among 56- to 65-year-olds than 18- to 25-year-olds, the study found.
Also, men who were wealthier and more educated placed more importance on having a good looking or slender partner, but showed little difference in preference when it came to partner income.
On the other hand, in one study of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) in Bogotá Psychologist Leonardo Moreno from a sample of 1,468 Cosmopolitan magazine publications on looking for a partner. He determined that when it comes to searching for a love partner both men (43.22%) and women (48.22%) give priority to psychological attributes such as personality traits, hobbies and a sense of humor.
However, there are notable differences. For instance, 30.66% of the publications, men demand physical attributes, in comparison to only 17.81% of the women’s ads.
Meanwhile, 19.28% of women request status, i.e. education, purchasing power, intelligence and a stable financial future; something only requested by 8.94% of the men.
While studies like this seem to confirm the most tired clichés of what men and women want, it's worth bearing in mind that what people say they want doesn't always match up with whom they choose.
"There is debate among scientists about whether stated preferences are meaningful, for example, whether they predict real partner choices," Dr Zietsch said.
Nevertheless, things like intelligence, kindness, dependability, emotional stability, good health; also mutual attraction and love; these are the things that both men and women wanted in both studies.