A study of couples in France reveals the discrepancy between “preferred” versus “actual” mate shapes. Men tended to state a preference for women slimmer than the women they actually paired with, whereas for women the correlation was weak (in other words, they paired with men that didn’t necessary fit their preference).
We simultaneously measured mating preferences for stature, body mass, and body mass index, and recorded corresponding actual partner’s characteristics for 116 human couples from France. Results show that preferred and actual partner’s characteristics differ for male judges, but not for females. In addition, while the correlation between all preferred and actual partner’s characteristics appeared to be weak for female judges, it was strong for males: while men prefer women slimmer than their actual partner, those who prefer the slimmest women also have partners who are slimmer than average. This study therefore suggests that the influences of preferences on pair formation can be sex-specific. It also illustrates that this process can lead to unexpected results on the real influences of mating preferences: traits considered as highly influencing attractiveness do not necessarily have a strong influence on the actual pairing, the reverse being also possible.