People find altruism in partners sexy

October 15th, 2008 - 2:25 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 15 (IANS) Displays of altruism or selflessness towards others can be sexually attractive in a mate, according to a study carried out by biologists and a psychologist.In three studies of more than 1,000 people Tim Phillips of Nottingham University and his fellow researchers discovered that women place significantly greater importance on altruistic traits that anything else.

“Evolutionary theory predicts competition between individuals and yet we see individuals prepared to put themselves at considerable risk to help individuals they do not know for no obvious reward.”

Participants were questioned about a range of qualities they look for in a mate, including examples of altruistic behaviour such as ‘donates blood regularly’ and ‘volunteered to help out in a local hospital’.

Women placed significantly greater importance on altruistic traits in all three studies. Yet both sexes may consider altruistic traits when choosing a partner.

One hundred and seventy couples were asked to rate how much they preferred altruistic traits in a mate and report their own level of altruistic behaviour, according to a release of Nottingham University.

The strength of preference in one partner was found to correlate with the extent of altruistic behaviour typically displayed in the other, suggesting that altruistic traits may well be a factor both men and women take into account when choosing a partner.

Phillips concluded: “Sexual selection could well come to be seen as exerting a major influence on what made humans human.”

Tom Reader in the University’s School of Biology said “sexual preferences have enormous potential to shape the evolution of animal behaviour”.

Their findings have been published in the British Journal of Psychology.

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