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Pathogen prevalence and human mate preferences

Author(s): Gangestad SW, Buss DM

Abstract

Members of host species in pathogen-host coevolutionary races may be selected to choose mates who possess features of physical appearance associated with pathogen resistance. Human data from 29 cultures indicate that people in geographical areas carrying relatively greater prevalences of pathogens value a mate's physical attractiveness more than people in areas with relatively little pathogen incidence. The relationship between pathogen prevalence and the value people place on physical attractiveness remained strong even after potential confounds such as distance from the equator, geographical region, and average income were statistically controlled for. Discussion focuses on potential limitations of the data, alternative explanations for the findings, and the nature of adaptions to the problems posed by pathogen prevalence.

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