Self-referencing and mate choice among college students: Epiphenomenon or consistent patterns of preference across populations?

Katherine R. Allen, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-referencing, or the assessment of one's own attributes, may play a critical role in human mate choice if an individual's perceived self-worth for a given personal attribute influences her or his preference for that same attribute in potential mates. We studied the potential role of self-perception in human mate choice in New Zealand college students, using survey-based responses to contrast predictions of the potentials attract versus the likes attract hypotheses. The survey was designed to include a test for a possible source of confounding error, common to survey-based studies: the uniform response bias (URB). Specifically, we included a third section of questions, where participants rated their preference for neutral objects unrelated to mate choice. Our analyses used polynomial regression techniques and corrected for multiple statistical tests. The data revealed a strong positive correlation between perceived self-worth in a particular trait and a declared preference for that same trait in potential mates in both sexes. Critically, we found no correlation between preference for neutral objects and the extent of either self-perception or mate preference, indicating that our results were not the bi-product of URB. These findings provide independent confirmation of previous conclusions that self-perception is likely to play an important role in mate selection by humans and other animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-174
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Mate choice
  • Self-referent phenotype matching
  • Sexual selection
  • Uniform response bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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