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040522 What to Look For in a Partner

What Do Men & Women Look For in a Partner According to a 1.8M Online Daters Study

profileJoel Koh

How do men and women choose their partners?

Although a substantial amount of research has been done on the subject, there are still some incompatible findings, and theoretical gaps relationship researchers have yet to settle.

Also, most studies focus on what psychologists define as ‘mate preferences’ — characteristics that humans look for in a person they would like to marry; less research has been done on ‘mate choice’ — the actual choice of an appropriate partner for reproduction.

This is part of the reason why researchers Andrew Thomas (Swansea University) and Peter Jonason (University of Padova) conducted the study: Being More Educated and Earning More Increases Romantic Interest (BEEMIRI): Data from 1.8 M Online Daters from 24 Nations.

This study was even published in Human Nature, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes research on human behaviour from ‘an interdisciplinary biosocial perspective.’

Source: Breaking Bad | Giphy

The study’s title may be a bit of a giveaway, but I think you might be interested in the findings nonetheless.


TL;DR: What Do Men and Women Look For in a Partner


BEEMIRI Study’s Research Methodology

The BEEMIRI researchers managed to gather data from 1.8 million online daters across 24 countries through Spark Networks SE: a company that owns online dating brands like Attractive World, Christian Mingle, Elite Singles, Zoosk and many more.

To conduct this study, the researchers created the metric Indicators Of Interest (IOI) to gauge how much romantic interest each dating profile received. Examples of IOI include messages, likes, and winks.

Whereas a person’s educational level and income were used to measure competency or resource acquisition ability.

Keep this in mind.

What Men and Women Are Looking For in a Partner

Beyond the initial physical attractiveness filter, most mate preference research suggests that men and women agree that traits like honesty, kindness, intelligence, and trustworthiness are important.

This is corroborated by this statistically representative February 2019 Milieu Insight survey of 3,334 Singaporeans (aged ≥16), which found that Singaporean men and women look for these traits in an ideal partner:

As the infographic above suggests, there is also a substantial difference in what both sexes prefer.

What Men Are Looking For in a Partner

The BEEMIRI study suggests that men prefer younger and more beautiful partners.

Before you dismiss this as shallowness, there is a biological reason for this.

The research suggests that men are biologically hardwired to look for fertile partners, and youth and beauty are key fertility indicators.

In addition, Singaporean men polled by the Milleu Insight survey ranked characteristics like beauty (70%), being good in bed (50%) and being a good kisser (48%) substantially higher than the women who were asked to rank these same characteristics.

What Women Are Looking For in a Partner

In contrast, the researchers of the BEEMIRI study found that women across cultures and countries valued partners with financial prospects more than men.

But take heart, men, it’s not just about your paycheque.

Women also find men with characteristics like ambition and social status/level, which are key indicators of potential resource-acquisition ability, desirable.

As such, if the men become idle or unemployed, there is a higher possibility that women would end the relationship.

Closer to home, the Milleu survey found that Singaporean women tend to value financial qualities like financial status (70%), occupation (61%), and career stability (55%) more than men.

Broadly speaking, what women are looking for is economic security.

This preference for economic security might be biological in nature, as women have much to lose when starting a family as they have to endure a long pregnancy and spend a substantial amount of time and effort to raise a child.

Thus from a biological perspective, women would be looking for a partner who would play the role of the protector and provider for themselves and the children.

Given that, you would think that a person’s ability to acquire resources would be positively associated with the amount of attention they receive on online dating platforms.

The study confirms this to be largely accurate, as men received about 2.5 times more attention due to their resource-acquisition ability than women.

In addition, the study found that a higher level of competency or resource acquisition ability made men’s profiles more desirable.

The men the study defined as more competent, i.e. those with a Master’s degree and above and earning more than ~$131,400 (£76,000) annually, received about 90% more IOIs on average compared to about 40% for women.

Other Interesting Findings From The BEEMIRI Study

The BEEMIRI study also had other interesting findings about online dating.

The Odds Are Stacked Against Men When it Comes to Online Dating

The researchers also found that in the world of online dating, the odds are stacked against men.

Sadly, there is a shocking amount of inequality in the online dating world as the majority of males received little to even no IOIs. In contrast, only a select group of men received hundreds of IOIs.

Not to mention the differences in experiences between men and women on dating apps.

For example, a person who is defined as ‘averagely competent’, i.e. someone with a university degree who earns about S$52,000 (£30,000) annually: the women received, on average, about 26 IOIs. In comparison, the men received about three times less with just eight IOIs.

Although, the study did not analyse the nature of these IOIs. Research from the Pew Research Centre found that women often face sexual harassment online, including on dating apps.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, the study found that when it comes to finding a partner, humans largely behaved in a manner aligned with evolutionary explanations rather than sociocultural ones.

As such, women should prefer men with higher resource acquisition ability for the sake of themselves and their offspring.

The findings from the study suggest the importance of resource-acquisition ability as a factor when humans choose their real-life partners, with this factor being more critical for women than men.

In addition, the study found that cross-cultural variance in the role of resource-acquisition ability appears sensitive to local competition and gender equality at the country level.

This leads to an online dating scene where women get bombarded with attention. In turn, they use these resource-acquisition ability indicators as quick filters to decide who to give their attention to.

However, the study did not provide further insight on whether this increased online interest translates to success in real life.

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About Joel Koh
History student turned writer at Seedly. Before you ask, not a teacher. I hope to help people make better financial decisions and not let money control them.
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