Willingness to provide is more important than ability to provide: women’s choice of a long-term male partner

  • Ryo Oda Nagoya Institute of Technology
  • Kai Hiraishi Department of Human Sciences, Keio University
Keywords: sexual selection, female choice, mate preference, investment, fertility


According to evolutionary theory, women select men who have the ability and willingness to provide for their offspring. However, a man with an excellent resource-holding potential might distribute his resources to another woman or pursue short-term sexual opportunities with a variety of women. Indeed, the ability of a woman to identify a man’s ability to provide is useless if his resources are distributed to another woman or to his own mating efforts. Therefore, the ability to ascertain the willingness of men to provide for long-term partners is important to women. Although such willingness is not directly related to genetic quality, the ability to provide might be based on genetic factors and function as an indicator of “good genes.” We asked women during either their high- or low-fertility period to rate the desirability of six fictitious men described in a vignette that addressed their ability and willingness to gather and share resources. Ability and willingness to provide were less important when women considered short-term relationships, but these two factors affected mate preference for long-term relationships. Women did not value the absolute value of their mates’ long-term ability to provide, and they placed more importance on their willingness to share than on their ability to accumulate resources. Women’s menstrual cycle did not affect this pattern of preference.
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