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Mating Intelligence

Glenn Geher and Scott Barry Kaufman

Mating Intelligence Defined emotional aspects of human mating that

seem like important products of our evo-
In the broadest terms, we see mating intelli- lutionary heritage. Mating intelligence sug-
gence (MI) as the cognitive abilities that bear gests that there are also high-level, cognitive
on mating-relevant outcomes – in short: the aspects of human psychology that also pri-
mind’s reproductive system (Geher, Miller, marily reflect mating-relevant adaptations
& Murphy, 2008). Mating intelligence differs resulting from our evolutionary heritage.
from the broader field of mating psychology
per se, as mating intelligence focuses on rel-
atively high-level cognitive processes – intel- Summary of Geher, Camargo,
ligence that underlies the domain of human and O’Rourke’s (2008) Model
mating – while mating psychology writ large
has focused on relatively basic, unconscious, In summarizing the first 15 chapters of the
low-level psychological processes – such as book Mating Intelligence, Geher, Camargo,
the effects of ovulation on attraction (Miller, and O’Rourke (2008) provide a framework
Tybur, & Jordan, 2007) or the nature of the for conceptualizing this new construct. First,
human voice as a courtship device (e.g., these authors draw important distinctions
Pipitone & Gallup, 2008). A mountain of between the fitness indicator component of
research on human mating makes it abun- mating intelligence and the cognitive mating
dantly clear that many basic psychological mechanisms component.
processes comprise evolved mating adapta- Rooted in Miller’s (2000a) conception
tions in our species. of high-order human intelligence as having
Mating intelligence is different in that evolved for courtship purposes, the fitness-
it focuses on the richer, more abstract, indicator component of mating intelligence
and more intellectual nature of human psy- corresponds to areas of intelligence that are
chology in the domain of mating. Clear- uniquely human (including, for instance,
ly, there are low-level, physiological, and artistic and linguistic elements), that vary

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dramatically from person to person, that are biological sex. In many regards, human mat-
partly heritable, and that are attractive in the ing processes have been shown to be sex-
mating domain. Such forms of intelligence differentiated. While dramatic intrasex vari-
may include, for instance, art (Nettle & ability tends to exist for mating-relevant
Clegg, 2006), creative writing (Nettle, 2009), variables, consistent sex differences on such
humor (see Kaufman et al., 2010; Kauf- variables are reliably found – often across
man, Kozbelt, Bromley & Miller, 2008), and disparate cultures – suggesting that males
vocabulary (see Rosenberg & Tunney, 2008). are more likely than females to pursue short-
Importantly, while these hypothesized men- term mating strategies across the gamut of
tal fitness indicators have been shown to mating-relevant behavioral traits (see Buss,
act as courtship signals, they do not neces- 2003). As such, male mating intelligence is
sarily directly bear on mating issues. Thus, predicted to be more honed toward optimiz-
the fitness-indicator component of mating ing short-term mating opportunities while
intelligence is thought to comprise higher female mating intelligence is predicted to
order intellectual processes (e.g., the ability be more honed toward optimizing long-
to write and recite a high-quality poem), but term opportunities. This prediction follows
the links between these processes and mat- from asymmetries in parental investment
ing outcomes are conceptualized as indirect. across the sexes that benefit males, the lower
So while poetic ability, for instance, may investing sex, in short-term strategies and
have evolved partly because success in this that benefit females, the higher investing
area was related to success in attracting high- sex, in long-term strategies (cf. Buss, 2003).
quality mates, the thoughts that underlie Life-history strategy is a similarly impor-
poetry need not be directly mating-relevant tant superordinate variable (see Figueredo
or, indeed, publicly advertised as part of et al., 2008). This idea, adapted from evo-
courtship (Nettle, 2009; although they may lutionary ecology, suggests that organisms
be – see Gottschall & Wilson, 2005). unconsciously strategize to find an optimal
On the other hand, cognitive mating mech- balance between somatic effort (facilitat-
anisms are proposed to be relatively high- ing their own survival) and reproductive
level cognitive abilities that bear directly on effort (facilitating the replication of their
mating-relevant issues. In successful mating, genes into future generations via reproduc-
one must effectively engage in a host of such tion). This concept was initially designed by
processes – such as accurate cross-sex mind biologists to characterize different kinds of
reading (to know whether a potential mate species – those that are k-selected – defined
is interested, to know what a current mate as “expecting” a long life within a stable
wants, etc.), strategic flexibility in mating environment (e.g., elephants) versus those
strategies (knowing when it is optimal to that are r-selected – defined as “expecting”
pursue long-term versus short-term strate- an unpredictable life, within an unstable
gies), being able to read cues that reliably environment (e.g., rabbits; see MacArthur &
indicate that a mate has cheated in a rela- Wilson, 1967). While humans are k-selected
tionship, being able to outcompete intrasex- as a species, there are clearly differences
ual rivals while keeping an eye toward pre- among human environments in terms of pre-
senting oneself as kind and other-oriented, dictability of resources and long-term stabil-
and so on. In short, there are many cog- ity. With this idea in mind, Figuredo et al.
nitive processes that are directly relevant (2008) and others (see Giosan, 2006) propose
to the domain of mating. We conceptual- that people differ in terms of the degree to
ize these processes as the cognitive mating which they follow a prototypical k-selected
mechanisms of mating intelligence. strategy. As such, these scholars conceptu-
Two important superordinate variables alize a k-differential continuum as typify-
underlie the nature of mating intelli- ing humans, with some people being rel-
gence in the model proposed by Geher, atively high k (these would be individuals
Camargo, and O’Rourke (2008). The first is who are raised in relatively resource-rich
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and stable backgrounds) and others being from an unstable childhood background and
relatively low k (individuals raised in harsh develops a low-k life-history strategy may
and relatively resource-poor and unstable well make mating decisions in adulthood
backgrounds and/or high in mortality). A that seem highly unintelligent (consider Bill
great deal of recent research has shown Clinton’s scandal with Monica Lewinsky, as
that the differential-k continuum is strongly an example).
predictive of general behavioral strategies – Finally, Geher, Camargo, and O’Rourke
with high-k individuals being more likely (2008) propose that the different elements
to delay gratification and take long-term of mating intelligence – including the fit-
approaches to solving problems (mating and ness indicators and cognitive mating mecha-
otherwise) and low-k individuals being more nisms – ultimately should predict Darwin’s
likely to seek instant gratification and to take bottom line of reproductive success. In fact,
short-term approaches to solving problems from an evolutionary perspective, all adap-
(see Kruger, Reischl, & Zimmerman, 2008). tations are adaptations because they gave
Such a strategies approach allows for plas- our ancestors reproductive advantages. Biol-
ticity and malleability of human adaptations ogists who study nonhumans are able to
and are in concordance with evolutionary see whether certain traits are more likely
principles in behavioral ecology, in which to lead to higher numbers of viable off-
adaptations vary by specific environmental spring compared with other traits. However,
demands, as these constraints influence the the study of humans from an evolutionary
expression of adaptations (Wilson, 2007). perspective runs into an idiosyncratic quag-
Consequently, this plasticity of adaptations mire regarding this issue: birth control. The
also allows for considerable individual dif- presence of birth control in most Western-
ferences, the focus of the mating intelligence ized societies makes it nearly impossible to
construct. study contemporary human behavior opti-
Geher, Camargo, and O’Rourke (2008) mally from an evolutionary perspective, as
propose that the differential-k continuum hypothesized human evolutionary adapta-
is a major variable that underlies mating tions cannot typically be examined vis-à-vis
intelligence. To the extent that the ele- reproductive success. A researcher who, for
ments of mating intelligence are adapta- instance, hypothesizes that relatively deep
tions, designed to facilitate long-term repro- voices in males evolved because women are
ductive success, it makes sense that the attracted to such voices and ultimately are
nature of mating intelligence would change more willing to become pregnant and bear
as a function of an individual’s placement on children of men with deep voices runs into
the differential-k continuum. High-k indi- a problem – such women may well be tak-
viduals are expected to be most likely to ing oral contraceptives – so this researcher
pursue long-term mating strategies and to will have a difficult time counting viable off-
ultimately engage in high levels of parental spring as a way of testing his or her adapta-
effort while low-k individuals are expected tionist hypothesis.
to be most likely to pursue short-term mat- This problem, which ends up as a major
ing opportunities. As such, high-k individu- concern for all evolutionary approaches to
als are predicted to have cognitive sets that humans, needs to be addressed. Geher,
facilitate long-term mating, often at a cost Camargo, and O’Rourke (2008) and oth-
to success in the area of short-term mat- ers (e.g., Pérusse, 1993) propose that we
ing, while low-k individuals are predicted to need to measure indicators of mating suc-
be characterized by cognitive sets that, on cess as a proxy for reproductive success to
the other hand, facilitate success in short- be better able to test evolutionary hypothe-
term mating. Thus, the nature of mating ses. If mating intelligence does comprise
intelligence likely takes on different forms in an important set of adaptations, then mea-
light of the k-differential continuum. Some- sures of mating intelligence should pre-
one high in general intelligence who comes dict reproductive success. Since we cannot
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typically measure reproductive success automatically raise a skeptical eye – right-

effectively in large samples of modern fully so. The modern behavioral sciences
humans, predictions regarding mating intel- are rooted in methods for objectively col-
ligence should seek to predict mating success lecting and analyzing observable data. Psy-
that may be addressed in terms of behav- chology is an empirical science – and psy-
ioral outcomes as well as potential reproduc- chologists demand evidence for any and all
tive fitness outcomes such as sperm quality claims. While this skeptical approach may
(cf. Arden, Gottfredson, Miller, & Pierce, make psychological research difficult to con-
2009). Mating success is defined largely duct and to publish, it is, without ques-
as including outcomes that would have tion, a good thing. The scientifically rigorous
likely led to reproductive success under pre- approach that underlies modern research
contraceptive conditions. For males, such psychology makes it so that the material
outcomes would include, for a straight- taught to students in psychology classes in
forward example, having had sexual inter- modern universities is based on data rather
course with multiple women and, in partic- than opinion.
ular, attracting women who are physically When Geher and Miller launched the
attractive. Of course, males also are often construct of mating intelligence in their
motivated to pursue long-term strategies book by the same name (2008), they knew
(see Simpson & Gangestad, 2000), and, as full well that this construct would be under
such, a measure of mating success for males a good bit of scrutiny. In fact, several of the
should also include such outcomes as being chapters in that edited volume on mating
courted by kind, intelligent, and socially intelligence included comments that were
connected females for long-term relation- critical of the concept writ large. Never one
ships. For females, outcomes associated with to mince words, Satoshi Kanazawa (2008)
mating success would include, for instance, wrote, “Intelligence, in its original definition,
having a history of dating relatively success- referred to purely cognitive abilities. . . . I
ful men and having had multiple men spend personally would have preferred to keep
high amounts of money on gifts for them it that way” (p. 283). Similar concerns are
(see Camargo, Geher, Fisher, & Arrabacca, expressed in chapters by Figueredo, Brum-
under review, for a thorough treatment of bach, Jones, Sefcek, Vasquez, and Jacobs
operationalizing mating success in modern (2008) as well as in David Buss’s (2008) fore-
humans). Importantly, mating success, in word to the book.
this context refers to outcomes that would While the basic idea of mating intelli-
have led to increased fitness relative to same- gence has generally been well received in
sex competitors under ancestral conditions – both academic (see Springer, 2009) and pop-
we are not referring to more intuitive con- ular circles (see Perina, 2007), we think it is
ceptions such as relationship happiness or important to address criticisms of this con-
kindness in long-term mateships. struct up front. As is true of any newly intro-
In sum, this model of MI suggests that it duced psychological construct, the main
(1) is broken into fitness indicators and cog- criticism launched at mating intelligence has
nitive mating mechanisms, (2) is moderated been essentially this: What’s new here?
importantly by the superordinate variables
of biological sex and the differential-k con-
tinuum, and (3) ultimately predicts mating The Heuristic Value of Mating
success. Intelligence (What’s New Here)

Sometimes, progressive scientific ideas form

What’s New Here?
from stepping back and looking at things
What’s new here? Any time some- from a new angle (see Dawkins, 2005). We
one proposes a novel psychological con- believe that the unification of the fields
struct, educated psychological researchers of mating and intelligence, implied in the
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mating intelligence construct, provides such seem to act as courtship mechanisms. Such
a new angle on many areas of the behav- traits include verbal fluency (Rosenberg &
ioral sciences. In a thorough consideration Tunney, 2008), humor (Greengross & Miller,
of the areas potentially illuminated by this 2008; Kaufman et al., 2008), conspicuous
construct, Miller (2008) argues that mat- altruism (see Miller, 2007), and creative writ-
ing intelligence has potential to improve ing (Kaufman & Kaufman, 2009).
our understanding of such disparate facets The study of cognitive mating mecha-
of human functioning as medicine, psychia- nisms has potential to provide insights into
try, economics, marketing, political science, many areas of mating psychology that have
sociology, education, and law. Here, we dis- been primarily studied from a universalist
cuss specific areas of psychological research perspective. For instance, while mating psy-
that may benefit – or that have already ben- chologists have previously documented sex-
efited – from the MI construct. specific features of deception in the mat-
The study of individual differences from ing domain (e.g., Haselton, Buss, Oubaid,
an evolutionary perspective has been, to & Angleitner, 2005), a mating intelligence
this point, largely incomplete. With a major approach to this issue may address indi-
focus on human universals, evolutionary vidual differences in mate-deception effi-
psychology has often either dismissed or cacy (e.g., O’Brien, Geher, Gallup, Gar-
ignored individual differences in important cia, & Kaufman, 2010). Similarly, while
behavioral traits. While there are some prior researchers have addressed universals
important exceptions to this generalization, in responses to infidelity, it may be that there
such as Nettle and Clegg’s (2008) work on are individual differences in such processes
understanding superordinate trait dimen- as (1) the ability to accurately detect infi-
sions in terms of balancing selection forces delity, (2) the ability to engage in infidelity
and Simpson and Gangestad’s (1991) ground- with a high-quality mate, (3) the ability to
breaking work on individual differences in deceive a partner about one’s history of infi-
sociosexuality (see also Penke, Denissen, & delity, and so forth. The study of individual
Miller, 2007), by and large, mating research differences in mating-relevant trait dimen-
conducted from an evolutionary perspec- sions should be a major product of the mat-
tive focuses on human universals such as ing intelligence construct.
sex-specific tactics to derogate mates (e.g., In formulating our model of mating
Buss & Schmitt, 1996), universals in the intelligence (Geher, Camargo, & O’Rourke,
nature of human jealousy (Buss, Larsen, 2008), the importance of mating success
Weston, & Semmelroth, 1992), universals became clear. Intelligence research of all
in features of attractive faces and bodies kinds focuses on predicting success in some
(Hughes & Gallup, 2003), and universals in area. Research on cognitive, or general intel-
qualities desired in long-term versus short- ligence, has focused on predicting success
term mates (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000). in various academic arenas (see Sternberg,
While the universalist approach that 1996); research on social intelligence has
characterizes most evolutionary-psychology sought to pinpoint the predictors of success
research clearly has shed light on many in such areas as marriage and career (Can-
important aspects of the human condition, tor & Kihlstrom, 1987); research on emo-
it fails to do justice to the myriad traits in tional intelligence has examined the pre-
our species that demonstrate reliable indi- dictors of success in such areas as intimate
vidual differences. Our conception of mat- relationships (Casey, Garrett, Brackett, &
ing intelligence as including both mental Rivers, 2008), health (Matthews, Zeidner,
fitness indicators and cognitive mating & Roberts, 2002), and education (Brackett,
mechanisms opens the door for two impor- Alster, Wolfe, Katulak, & Fale, 2007). Given
tant areas of individual-differences research. the evolutionary roots that underlie mating
The study of mental fitness indicators intelligence, it quickly becomes clear that
addresses many cognitively laden traits that the main kind of success that should result
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from mating intelligence would be reproduc- species. We sing tunes designed to coor-
tive success (RS), which is essentially Dar- dinate with lyrics, write poems, and paint
win’s bottom line – ultimately bearing on wonderfully complex and aesthetic pictures
the number of viable descendants that reach to attract mates. We go on dates, exchange
future generations (taking quality of descen- witty banter, and engage in long conversa-
dants into account, as well, to the extent that tions about preferences and values. Why do
quality facilitates gene proliferation overall we bother?
across generations). Whether a trait is adap- When we seek a mate, we surely look
tive in the Darwinian sense corresponds, for someone whom we can connect with
ultimately, to whether certain levels of that on a personal level, who shares our hopes,
trait led to increases in RS in our ancestors. desires, goals, and fears. As such, mate selec-
As such, the main outcome that should be tion in humans consistently focuses on qual-
predicted by any adaptation is RS – often ities that are optimal for short-term as well
framed in terms of the number of viable off- as long-term partners. But at another level,
spring produced. our genes pull us toward individuals high in
An important hurdle to the study of mat- fitness (heritable genetic quality). Most ani-
ing intelligence, then, becomes apparent. mals in the animal kingdom advertise fitness
Given the widespread use of birth control by displaying elaborate structures that don’t
in so many modern societies, RS, opera- appear to serve a survival function. The pea-
tionalized in terms of number of offspring, cock’s tail, the elk’s antlers, and the nightin-
has little construct validity. A tall, muscu- gale’s voice are all examples of adaptations
lar, symmetrical, dominant, and intelligent that signal fitness.
male in a modern society may well attract Humans are unique, however, in the
many high-quality (attractive, healthy, and amount of fitness information that is con-
free from debilitating mental illness) sexual tained in the brain. And because the brain
partners, but his consistent use of birth con- is the source of human intelligence, intel-
trol may reduce his RS to zero. As such, the ligence is fair game for sexual selection.
widespread use of birth control renders RS According to the principle of sexual selec-
nearly impossible to operationalize in mod- tion, reproduction is just as much a strug-
ern human populations. For this reason, we gle as survival. Thus, while adaptations for
propose that RS needs to be approximated survival surely come to typify organisms
with measures of mating success – defined as via evolutionary processes, adaptations that
including outcomes that would have corre- are primarily about successful reproduction
sponded to RS under pre-contraceptive con- share the front seat. Sexually selected traits
ditions (see Geher, Camargo, & O’Rourke, (as opposed to traits operating under the
2008). While previous scholars have con- forces of natural selection) display high vari-
sidered the importance of operationaliz- ance because there is competition for indi-
ing mating success (e.g., Pérusse, 1993), the viduals to mate with those who exhibit
mating intelligence framework makes the traits that are metabolically expensive, hard
need for valid measures of mating success to maintain, not easily counterfeited, and
extremely clear. One of the important out- highly sensitive to genetic mutations. Such
comes of the mating intelligence construct traits that display these properties are the
should pertain to thorough psychometric most reliable indicators of genetic fitness.
work on mating success. According to Zahavi’s (1997) handicap prin-
ciple, even though fitness indicators may
impair the odds of survival (creating a hand-
Intelligence and Mental icap), they can offer reproductive benefits
Fitness Indicators that outweigh the survival costs. The pea-
cock’s tail may make it difficult for the pea-
Human courtship has a distinct flavor com- cock to walk, and may make the peacock
pared to the courtship behavior of other more visible to predators, but the peacock’s
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tail attracts mates. Likewise with the human longevity, bodily symmetry, and even sperm
brain – while there may be metabolic costs quality (Arden et al., 2009; Banks, Batche-
associated with having such a heavy brain, lor, & McDaniel, 2010; Bates, 2007; Calvin
the costs may be outweighed by reproduc- et al., 2010; Furlow et al., 1997; Jensen,
tive benefits. Those animals who can dis- 1998; Prokosch, Yeo, & Miller, 2005; Silven-
play such structures that go beyond sur- toinen, Posthuma, van Beijsterveldt, Bartels,
vival are advertising that they have the & Boomsma, 2006; Sundet, Tambs, Harris,
resources not only to survive; they also have Magnus, & Torjussen, 2005; also see Intel-
resources left over to invest in excess. An ligence as a Predictor of Health, Illness,
analogy can be found in Veblen’s (1899) idea and Death, Chapter 35 of this volume); g
of conspicuous consumption. According to may therefore be an indicator of deleteri-
Veblen, wasteful display of wealth is a reli- ous mutation load, which would affect many
able indicator of wealth since the poor can- interacting genes and thereby have an effect
not afford such waste. From Zahavi’s per- on the entire biological system.
spective, such characteristics represent costly There is also accumulating evidence that
signals, which evolve as hard-to-fake, honest intelligence and creativity (which Miller
advertisements of heritable qualities. argues is an indicator of intelligence) are
In recent years, Geoffrey Miller has sexually attractive traits. Buss (1989) inves-
applied Zahavi’s handicap principle to the tigated mate preferences across 37 cul-
evolution of human intelligence, arguing tures and found that intelligence was the
that sexual selection played a much greater second-most-desired trait in a sexual part-
role than natural selection in shaping the ner, right below kindness. Experimental
most distinctively human aspects of our research shows that intelligent and creative
minds, including storytelling, art, music, individuals are considered more attractive,
sports, dance, humor, kindness, and leader- and have a higher number of sexual part-
ship (Miller, 1998, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2001; ners (Buss, 1989; Griskevicius, Cialdini, &
Kaufman et al., 2008). Miller argues that Kenrick, 2006; Haselton & Miller, 2006; Net-
these behaviors are the result of complex tle & Clegg, 2006; Prokosch, Coss, Scheib, &
psychological adaptations whose primary Blozis, 2009).
functions were to attract mates, yielding Various scholars have elaborated and
reproductive rather than survival benefits. clarified Miller’s theory. Feist (2001) notes
Germs of this idea can be traced back to that Miller focuses on sexual selection and
Darwin: “It appears probable that the pro- artistic creativity at the exclusion of the evo-
genitors of man, either the males or females lution of scientific creativity and technology,
or both sexes, before acquiring the power which Feist argues is more likely to have
of expressing mutual love in articulate lan- been shaped by natural selection pressures.
guage, endeavored to charm each other with Further, Feist (2001) argues that natural
musical notes and rhythm” (Darwin, 1871, selection has driven mainly the more applied
p. 880). or technological aspects of creativity that
Taking as the assumption that the general have clear survival benefits, such as advances
factor of human intelligence (i.e., g) is syn- in science and engineering, whereas sexual
onymous with human intelligence, Miller selection may have driven more ornamental
argues that behaviors that show a strong or aesthetic aspects of creativity, including
influence of general intelligence (i.e., are art, music, dance, and humor; forms of cre-
highly g-loaded) should be sexually attrac- ativity that have come along more recently
tive since they are indicators of a superor- on the evolutionary scene.
dinate fitness factor ( f factor). Indeed, evi- Therefore, not all creative displays may
dence has been accumulating that suggests be considered equally as sexually attrac-
the existence of an f factor. Various threads tive. More “nerdy” displays of creativity,
of research show a correlation between g and such as in math, engineering, and the sci-
many biological traits such as height, health, ences, may be considered less attractive, on
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average, than more “artistic” displays of cre- intentions, and information, and facilitating
ativity such as in poetry, music, and art. cooperation. Thus, sexual selection may not
Recent research does suggest that collaps- be the primary selective pressure for musi-
ing over individual differences, more artistic cality. He also notes that while it may appear
forms of creativity are considered more sex- at first blush that creative men have more
ually attractive than more scientific forms of short-term sexual partners because of their
creativity (Kaufman et al., 2009). However, creativity, their attractiveness may be more
individual differences were found in that the combination of good looks, style, and
those who reported higher levels of creative an antiestablishment persona. Mithen also
achievement in scientific forms of creativity points out that the finding (Miller, 1999) that
did tend to find scientific forms of creativ- males produce at least 10 times more music
ity sexually attractive (as well as some artis- than females and are the most productive
tic forms of creativity) whereas those who around the age of 30 (in which men are in
reported higher levels of creative achieve- their peak mating effort and activity) could
ment in artistic forms of creativity did tend more parsimoniously be explained by the
to find artistic forms of creativity sexually particular structure and attitudes of 20th-
attractive, but did not report finding scien- century Western society. Perhaps the most
tific forms of creativity sexually attractive. reasonable conclusion is that sexual selec-
Future research should clarify these issues, tion helped ramp up the evolution of intel-
testing Feist’s hypothesis at both the group ligence and creativity, exaggerating certain
and individual level of analysis. forms, or making them not only functional
In a related line of thought, Feist argues but also ornamental. In this way they went
that Miller’s account of sexual selection does beyond the realm of practicality to the realm
not fully connect with the creativity liter- of aesthetic functionality.
ature. In this body of literature, creativ- From a different angle, Kanazawa (2008)
ity is defined as both novel and adaptive argues that individuals with greater gen-
behavior (Sternberg, 1998), not as novel cre- eral intelligence do not have greater mat-
ative displays that attract the attention of ing intelligence, except in areas where
potential mates. Feist also notes that there the mechanisms underlying mating intelli-
is evidence that creative people tend to gence operate on evolutionarily novel stim-
be less likely to marry and when they do, uli. Kanazawa (2004, 2010) proposed that
they have relatively few children (Harri- general intelligence evolved as a domain-
son, Moore, & Rucker, 1985), a factor that specific psychological mechanism to solve
surely also impacts on reproductive suc- evolutionarily novel problems (for a differ-
cess. Also, it should be noted that time ent perspective on the evolution of gen-
spent on creative projects may be time taken eral intelligence, see Borsboom & Dolan,
away from mating and child rearing (Gabora 2006; Chiappe & MacDonald, 2005; Geary,
& Kaufman, 2010). And it is also possible 2004, 2009; Girotto & Tentori, 2008; Kauf-
that creative individuals may have trou- man, DeYoung, Reis, & Gray, submitted;
ble in relationships, on average, as well, Penke, 2010; Woodley, 2010). With this the-
due to their unique constellation of per- ory as a foundation, Kanazawa (2008) argues
sonality traits, including being less conven- that general intelligence is independent of
tional and conscientious, and more driven, other adaptations, including mating intel-
ambitious, dominant, hostile, and impul- ligence. Kanazawa presents evidence that
sive than less creative individuals (see Feist, those higher in verbal intelligence are rel-
1998). atively ineffective at evolutionarily familiar
In a related line of research, Mithen tasks such as finding mates, having children,
(2006) presents evidence that the musical- and getting and staying married (see Taylor
ity of our ancestors and relatives may in et al., 2005 for further evidence on the neg-
fact have had considerable survival value ative association between IQ and marriage).
as a means of communicating emotions, Kanazawa presents evidence that those
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with higher verbal intelligence are better, comprises the species-typical portion of
however, at voluntarily controlling fertility, MI’s cognitive mating mechanisms.
a finding Kanazawa interprets as reflecting As a recent example of a mating-relevant
the better ability of those with higher ver- psychological process framed as a cognitive
bal intelligence in dealing with evolutionar- mating mechanism, consider Geher’s (2009)
ily novel means of contraception in the cur- work on cross-sex mind reading. Rooted in
rent environment. Accordingly, Kanazawa methods borrowed from the field of emo-
and others see this tendency for individuals tional intelligence research (Geher, 2004),
high in general intelligence to take steps to this work explored the ability to accurately
inhibit reproduction as consistent with the guess the mating desires of the opposite sex
dysgenic hypothesis, that low intelligence in a large sample of heterosexual adults.
drives out high intelligence. Being able to read the thoughts of the
Perhaps it is important to distinguish opposite sex (literally, not in an extrasen-
between the sexual attractiveness of intel- sory manner!) comprises an important set
ligence and the use of human intelligence to of cognitive skills that are crucial for mat-
navigate the mating domain. An interesting ing success. Thus, this ability is a crucial
irony may be that while intelligence might cognitive mating mechanism that underlies
be a sexually attractive trait, those with mating intelligence. In this research, partici-
high intelligence may have no advantage in pants were presented with real personal ads
actually navigating the mating domain (un- written by members of their own sex – and
less the domain consists of evolutionary they were asked to judge which ad (in clus-
novelty). It is to the cognitive mechanisms ters of three) was rated as most attractive
underlying mating intelligence that we now for either a long-term or short-term mat-
turn. ing partner by members of the opposite sex.
In a separate part of the study, members
of the opposite sex rated these same ads,
Mating-Relevant Cognitive so the actual answers could be determined.
Mechanisms Ads were all content coded for the presence
of sexual content in a blind process by two
As stated in prior work, we believe independent judges.
that the cognitive mating mechanisms Across both short- and long-term items,
of MI include both species-typical and women showed a strong tendency to over-
individual-differences features (Miller, estimate the degree to which males were
2008). Species-typical (i.e., universalist) attracted to ads of women who included sex-
mating mechanisms include the many mat- ual content. These findings are consistent
ing qualities that have been studied by prior with an adaptive bias account of cross-sex
researchers that may be thought of as char- mind reading, suggesting that women may
acterizing a human universal mating intelli- be particularly prone to think that men are
gence. Such qualities include, as examples, only interested in sex; such a judgment may
the tendencies to (1) advertise qualities encourage women to be especially skepti-
that are attractive to potential mates (Buss cal of men’s intentions. Such commitment
& Schmitt, 1996), (2) engage in adaptive skepticism may be part of a broad long-term
mating-relevant self-deception (O’Sullivan, female mating strategy designed to reduce
2008), (3) demonstrate meta-strategic flex- the likelihood of a female’s being impreg-
ibility, by changing one’s mating strategy as nated by a nonfaithful male and, thus, bear-
a function of current ecological conditions ing the evolutionary tax of raising an off-
(such as the prevailing sex ratios; see spring alone.
Schmitt 2005), and (4) hold biased mating- In terms of accuracy in cross-sex mind
relevant beliefs that may be evolutionarily reading, the findings were revealing. Each
adaptive (Haselton & Buss, 2000). To a large sex turned out to be relatively expert at
extent, the edifice of mating psychology guessing the mating-relevant thoughts of
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the opposite sex when the judgments cor- and long-term mating strategies), (3) adap-
responded to the dominant strategy of the tive self-deception in the mating domain,
opposite sex. Thus, females outperformed (4) adaptive mating-relevant bias (with the
males in guessing short-term desires, while male subscale corresponding to overestimat-
males outperformed females in guessing ing the degree to which women find males
long-term desires. Accordingly, it seems that sexually attractive and the female subscale
cross-sex mind reading seems particularly corresponding to being hyper skeptical of
honed when it comes to knowing what the males’ intentions), and (5) effective behav-
opposite sex wants in the areas that are pri- ioral courtship display. Thus, this scale is
oritized by the opposite sex. designed to tap both mental fitness indica-
While Geher (2009) explicates the utility tors as well as mating mechanisms in terms
of the mating intelligence construct to gen- of individual differences.
erate new research and new findings, this It is important to note that this measure
study was limited when it came to under- uses self-report methods and that, without
standing cross-sex mind reading in terms of question, work on this scale represents the
individual differences. An attempt to mea- nascent stage of psychometric efforts on this
sure cross-sex mind reading in terms of construct that are needed. Previous research
individual differences did not yield inter- on aspects of human intelligence using self-
nally reliable scales. While this fact was report methods has generally cast a critical
somewhat disappointing, it is worth not- eye on such approaches (Geher & Renstrom,
ing that this same issue typified the ear- 2004). Ultimately, ability-based measures
liest attempts to create ability-based mea- would likely have more face validity as
sures of emotional intelligence (Mayer & well as, perhaps, more predictive validity.
Geher, 1996). Attempts to operationalize Still, both the male and female versions of
emotional intelligence in terms of individ- this measure (based on total scale scores)
ual differences have increased markedly in demonstrated high internal-consistency reli-
their success across time (Geher, 2004). We ability. Further, in two studies on young het-
expect that attempts to measure the mat- erosexual adults, this scale demonstrated a
ing mechanisms of mating intelligence as strong ability to predict important variables
individual-differences variables will also suc- related to reproductive success. In the first
ceed in time. study, males’ scores were positively predic-
In fact, another thread of recent work has tive of having had more sexual partners in
demonstrated that mating intelligence may the past year as well as more lifetime part-
prove to be a valid individual-differences ners, whereas females’ scores showed a more
construct. Geher and Kaufman (2007) cre- nuanced pattern, with high mating intel-
ated a self-report measure of MI to appear ligence for females corresponding to hav-
alongside a popular article on this topic pub- ing had sexual relations relatively early in
lished in Psychology Today (Perina, 2007). life, but not having a relatively high num-
While this scale was not initially designed ber of sexual partners in the last year. Thus,
with scholarly goals in mind, several recent for males, high mating intelligence seems to
studies that have included this measure have correspond to more sexual partners over-
demonstrated its internal reliability as well all whereas for females, high mating intel-
as its predictive utility (O’Brien, Geher, ligence corresponds to having more sexual
Gallup, Garcia & Kaufman, 2010). Male and experience but not a more promiscuous
female versions of this scale, created primar- current strategy (O’Brien et al., under
ily for use with heterosexual populations, review).
tap several major dimensions that underlie A second study explored mating intelli-
mating intelligence, including (1) accuracy in gence in the context of hookups, generally
cross-sex mind reading, (2) effective decep- defined as short-term sexual relationships
tion in the mating domain (a characteris- with no explicit long-term relationship
tic that likely pertains to both short-term attached (Garcia & Reiber, 2008). In
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addition to measuring mating intelligence, relatively nascent field of evolutionary psy-

this study asked participants if they had chology includes the study of human mating
ever engaged in Type-I hookups (with (see Buss, 2005). However, evolutionary psy-
strangers), Type-II hookups (with acquain- chology has traditionally focused on human
tances), and Type-III hookups (with indi- universals instead of individual differences,
viduals they defined as friends). Again, the and has traditionally focused on lower level
MI scale demonstrated sensitivity to impor- cognitive processes instead of higher level
tant sex-differentiated features of relation- cognitive functions. We hope the mating
ships. For males, higher mating intelligence intelligence construct will provide a miss-
corresponded to having engaged in each ing piece of the human cognitive puzzle for
kind of hookup, whereas for females, high the fields of both human intelligence and
mating intelligence corresponded to hav- evolutionary psychology and will stimulate
ing engaged in hookups with acquaintances cross-talk between the two fields of inquiry.
(Type-II), but not either of the other kinds. The integrative model of mating intel-
These findings make sense from an evolu- ligence outlined here and first proposed
tionary perspective, as it may be particularly by Geher, Camargo, and O’Rourke (2008)
costly for a female to engage in sex with a includes two main components. The first
stranger, about whom she has little informa- class of cognitive processes relate to mating-
tion. Such relationships, started with mini- relevant cognitive domains that are thought
mal baseline information, could put a female to primarily serve courtship-display func-
at high risk for such adverse outcomes as tions. While evolutionary psychology has
violence, desertion, or disease. On the other tended to focus mainly on behavioral dis-
hand, prior research has demonstrated that plays of physical qualities such as strength,
it is not adaptive for females to have sex- virility, and athleticism, the MI construct
ual relations with close opposite-sex friends; focuses on psychological qualities (mental fit-
and, in fact, females typically do not report ness indicators) such as confidence, kindness,
having opposite-sex friends for sexual rea- creativity, intelligence, resourcefulness, sta-
sons (Bleske-Recheck & Buss, 2001). Rela- tus, humor, and mental health.
tions with individuals defined as acquain- According to the fitness-indicator model,
tances may well strike a balance. humans are particularly attuned to behav-
The findings from the aforementioned ioral qualities of potential mates that reveal
studies (Geher, 2009; O’Brien et al., 2010) are good genes in the evolutionary sense in that
presented to give a face to the field of mat- they reveal a relatively low mutation load
ing intelligence. Some of these findings bear (in other words, a relatively low number
primarily on species-typical mating mech- of genetic mutations) as well as genes that
anisms whereas others focus on individual are generally associated with health, sur-
differences in the different elements of mat- vival, and successful reproductive abilities
ing intelligence. While this work provides (see Keller & Miller, 2006). Therefore, much
an important first step in carving out the of human mate choice can be explained as
nature of mating intelligence and its con- an adaptive (unconscious) fear of heritable
tribution to the field of psychology, more mutations – as mutation phobia. According
research is surely needed to help the mating to this idea of mutation phobia, people are
intelligence construct realize its potential. repulsed by features of potential mates that
have a strong latent correlation with high
mutation load. In the biological literature,
The Future of Mating Intelligence body asymmetry or dullness of plumage
are often given as examples (see Hasson,
By proposing the mating intelligence con- 2006).
struct, we hope to stimulate research on It is not clear, however, whether such
the connection between human sexuality mate choice operates in a continuous or
and human intelligence. A large part of the categorical manner. It is entirely possible
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that our mate preferences have been shaped all fitness-related traits). Further, Miller pro-
more to avoid mating with high-mutation- poses that the existence of this superordi-
load individuals who have obvious physi- nate fitness factor should be manifest as a
cal or psychological problems than to make positive manifold (all-positive correlations)
very fine discriminations among individuals among fitness indicators in general. Future
who seem more or less average in terms research should attempt to tests Miller’s
of mutation load. Zebrowitz and Rhodes (2000c) predictions and shed light on the
(2004) offer evidence that, at least in some nature of the courtship-display components
cases, mate choice operates in a categorical of MI. One such method would be to simply
manner. They found that people could accu- assess the g-loadings of a variety of mental
rately predict overall health and intelligence fitness indicators and compare the relation-
for targets with relatively unattractive faces, ship of the g-loadings to ratings of sexual
but not for targets with relatively attractive attractiveness of each fitness indicator.
faces. Facial attractiveness was predictive of According to Miller, there should be a posi-
health and intelligence for targets and intel- tive relationship.
ligence only at the low-fitness extremes. Future research should also try to
Such a curvilinear relationship between elucidate the particular characteristics of
indicator quality and sexual attractiveness various mental displays that are sexually
(concave-downward, with rapidly diminish- attractive. Various forms of creativity (e.g.,
ing returns above the mean of indicator qual- artistic) may be considered more attractive
ity) may be seen in the domain of mating than other forms of creativity (e.g., scien-
intelligence. For example, someone with an tific) not due to indications of g (indeed, sci-
IQ of 90 may be much more attractive than entific forms of creativity are probably more
someone with an IQ of 70, but a potential g-loaded than artistic forms of creativity)
mate with an IQ of 150 may only be a little but due to fitness indications of kindness,
more attractive than one whose IQ is 130. emotional expressivity, and so on. Future
Research should attempt to investigate the research should also assess the importance
(probably nonlinear) functions that relate of individual differences in preferences for
mutation load to mental fitness indicators various mental fitness indicators. Prelimi-
and that relate indicator quality to attrac- nary research in this regard is under way
tiveness in mating. Such research should (Kaufman et al., 2009) and suggests that at
sample populations from all strata of society. the group level, artistic forms of creativity
Indeed, if it turns out that fitness indicators are considered more sexually attractive than
correlate differently at low-quality and high- scientific forms of creativity, with substan-
quality extremes, and assortative mating on tial individual differences in preferences for
IQ is a predominant occurrence, then bright, forms of creative display that can at least
healthy, college sophomores may not be the partly be predicted by an individual’s per-
best and/or only population we should be sonality, intelligence, and creativity.
studying for mating intelligence research on The second class of cognitive processes
the display, judgment, and sexual attractive- act as mating mechanisms. Such potentially
ness of fitness indicators! fruitful domains of MI that can be clas-
Another issue in the understanding of sified under the mating mechanisms com-
mental fitness indicators has to do with the ponent of MI include mate-choice mecha-
relation of each fitness indicator to general nisms for evaluation and choosing among
intelligence. In conceiving of g-loaded men- potential sexual partners (e.g., Penke et al.,
tal traits as having arisen from sexual selec- 2008); self-evaluation mechanisms for assess-
tion processes, Miller (2000a) posits that g is ing one’s own mate value (O’Brien et al.,
essentially an index of neurodevelopmental under review); mechanisms for making
stability and brain efficiency that taps any context-sensitive decisions about mating strate-
overall fitness factor (roughly, the first prin- gies (Schmitt, 2005) such as whether to pur-
cipal component of genetic quality across sue short-term or long-term relationships;
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cross-sex mind reading mechanisms (Geher, In addition to such basic psychometric

2009) for understanding and influencing the qualities as internal reliability of measuring
behavior of potential mates, and of their instruments, this work will need to assess
friends, families, and children; and same-sex whether (1) different elements of mating
mind reading mechanisms for understand- intelligence are mildly interrelated, (2) they
ing and influencing the behavior of poten- are somewhat related to g, (3) they are not
tial sexual rivals, and of their friends, fami- redundant with well-established personality
lies, and allies (Fisher, 2004). Future research traits such as the Big Five, and (4) the abil-
should also attempt to investigate relations ities that comprise mating intelligence are,
between mental fitness indicators and mat- indeed, predictive of mating success (such
ing mechanisms. For instance, are those with as the abilities to attract, choose, court, and
higher IQ better able to detect interest in a retain high-quality sexual partners, and to
potential mate? Are those who are higher deter sexual rivals and infidelities). Such
in fitness displays such as humor produc- psychometric work will be crucial in deter-
tion better able at assessing their own mate mining whether mating intelligence is a use-
value? Such an investigation of how vari- ful individual-differences construct within
ous fitness indicators relate to one another psychology writ large. Further, given that
and with other mating mechanisms will help emotional intelligence is predictive of suc-
clarify the structure of mating intelligence. cess in intimate relationships, research on
One step toward this clarification would the interface between emotional intelligence
be to develop a performance measure of and mating intelligence could be both the-
mating intelligence. The mating mecha- oretically and practically valuable. Finally,
nisms in our model may be interrelated future research needs to focus on measur-
much like the abilities that underlie emo- ing mating intelligence in an ability-based
tional intelligence (see Emotional Intelli- manner. Work on the parallel construct of
gence, Chapter 27 of this volume). The emotional intelligence has clearly demon-
ability-based model of emotional intelli- strated that indices of this construct as an
gence presented by the authors of that ability are not fully correlated with indices
chapter suggests that there are four basic of this construct measured via self-report
facets of emotional intelligence, which are measures (see Geher, 2004). Ability-based
somewhat interrelated and mildly g-loaded. measures of mating intelligence might use
These facets include the ability to identify work in emotional intelligence as a guide,
emotions, assimilate emotion into thought, examining such abilities as, for instance,
understand emotions, and manage emotions the ability to know what is attractive to a
(in one’s self and others). This framework large group of potential mates, the ability to
might be useful for producing a test of mat- effectively deceive others regarding mating-
ing intelligence as well as understanding the relevant stimuli, and so on. Future research
structure of mating intelligence. Just as emo- along these lines should be very fruitful in
tional intelligence may have basic interre- carving out the nature of this construct.
lated components that underlie it, mating In terms of the practical value of mating
intelligence may also have basic elements intelligence, there are important potential
(such as the ability to accurately assess one’s applications of the MI framework to soci-
own mate value) which may be interre- ety. Awareness of mating intelligence in the
lated and found to comprise a distinct set larger society should increase our apprecia-
of mating-relevant cognitive abilities. The tion of psychological and mental qualities
important distinction between emotional in a potential mate in addition to purely
intelligence and mating intelligence here physical qualities. Further, sex education
pertains to content – with emotional intelli- in the schools can be improved by being
gence dealing with emotion-relevant stimuli informed by the MI framework. In partic-
and processes and mating intelligence focus- ular, by embracing the fact that much of
ing on content tied to the mating domain. the human mind is really about mating, sex
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education classes could teach students the Brackett, M. A., Alster, B., Wolfe, C. J.,
importance of mental indicators and the var- Katulak, N. A., & Fale, E. (2007). Creating an
ious skills necessary to successfully navigate emotionally intelligent school district: A skill
the mating domain. Informed by the com- based approach In R. Bar-On, J. G. Maree, &
plexities of human mating research, such M. J. Elias (Eds.), Educating people to be emo-
tionally intelligent (pp. 123–137). Westport, CT:
education could address the fact that there
are multiple routes to success in mating –
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human
with males and females both armed with mate selection: Evolutionary hypothesis
a variety of long- and short-term strategies tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sci-
that are highly context-sensitive. The mat- ences, 12, 1–49.
ing intelligence idea underscores this com- Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: Strate-
plexity, but also places these ideas within a gies of human mating. New York, NY: Basic
coherent framework informed by evolution- Books.
ary theory. Buss, D. M. (2005). The handbook of evolutionary
It is our hope that the mating intelligence psychology. New York, NY: Wiley.
construct, by providing an evolutionarily Buss, D. M. (2009). Evolutionary psychology: The
new science of the mind. Boston, MA: Pearson.
informed understanding of human intelli-
Buss, D. M. (2008). The future of mating intel-
gence that takes into account the important ligence. Mating intelligence: Sex, relationships,
domain of human mating, can allow us to and the mind’s reproductive system. Mahwah,
come toward a more complete understand- NJ: Erlbaum.
ing of human intelligence. Borsboom, D., & Dolan, C. V. (2006). Why g is
not an adaptation: A comment on Kanazawa
(2004). Psychological Review, 113, 433–437.
Acknowledgments Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Weston, D., & Sem-
melroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy:
We greatly appreciate the diligent work Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psy-
of senior editor Robert Sternberg during chological Science, 3, 251–255.
the editorial process and we thank Justin Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1996). Strategic
self-promotion and competition derogation:
Garcia for offering his thoughtful guidance
Sex and conflict effects on perceived effec-
and insights regarding biological aspects of
tiveness of mate attraction tactics. Journal
this work. We also thank Megan Geher for of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1185–
her excellent editorial help. 1204.
Calvin, C. M., Deary, I. J., Fenton, C., Roberts,
B. A., Der, G., Leckenby, N., & Batty,
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