I use an evolutionary lens to study human mating strategies and related behavior and psychology. I have published on the topics of mate preferences, attraction, relationship satisfaction, and mating strategies. My work spans from empirical studies documenting novel cues to short-term mate attractiveness to theoretical articles on the evolution of long-term mating in humans.
My studies on sexual exploitability explored the relationship between perceived sexual exploitability and attractiveness. In my first study on this topic, I documented a comprehensive list of cues that both men and women perceive as indicative of sexual exploitability in women. I identified cues related to different types of exploitative tactics, such as cues that indicate a woman could be more easily deceived into sex, more easily pressured, or more easily physically assaulted. Furthermore, I demonstrated that men find women displaying these cues to be attractive as short-term mates, but unattractive as long-term mates. I argued that sexual attraction in this context functions to motivate men to pursue accessible targets (Goetz, Easton, Lewis, & Buss, 2012). I also demonstrated that some women use the relationship between sexual exploitability and sexual attractiveness to their advantage. I hypothesized that specific individual differences, such as being short-term mating inclined, single, and low in mate value, will be related to women actively displaying cues to exploitability to attract mates. I found support for the hypothesis that woman inclined toward casual sex will be more likely to display exploitability cues as a mate attraction tactic using both women’s self-reports of their mate attraction behavior and using data from coded video dating clips (Goetz, Easton, & Buss, 2013; Goetz, Easton, & Meston, 2014). This research program has expanded our understanding of predictors of sexual victimization and introduced a novel hypothesis that explains what motivates sexually exploitative encounters. Application of these findings can contribute towards prevention of sexual exploitation by helping men understand the source of their sexual motivations and by helping women understand the contexts and characteristics that put them at risk. My continued work in this area includes examining individual differences in men’s sensitivity to cues to exploitability, and contexts that influence women’s display of cues to exploitability.
Selected press:Slate - Do Men Find Dumb-Looking Women More Attractive? Bang! - Evolution and Sexual Exploitation: Evolutionary Psychology Takes on Another Tough Topic
Psychology of Romantic Relationships
My recent work focuses on emotions and attitudes within committed romantic relationships, including relationship satisfaction, anger, and shame. Although much of the work on relationship satisfaction implicitly assumes that people should be dissatisfied with mates that do not match their mate preferences, empirical work has demonstrated inconsistent support for this idea. My collaborators and I hypothesized that relationship satisfaction functions to calibrate relationship behavior in response to the fitness costs and benefits of the relationship. With this in mind, it makes sense that ideal preference fulfillment may not be the best predictor of relationship satisfaction. Abandoning a mate who does not fit a person’s preferences would be unwise if 1) there were not any other mates that would be a closer match to one’s preferences or 2) the current mate is particularly high in value. We applied a novel multivariate method of assessing mate preferences, and we calculated two novel mate value discrepancies. We demonstrated that relationship satisfaction decreases as there are more potential partners that better fit their mate preferences than their current partner, but only if they are higher in mate value than their partner. Mate-value discrepancies better predicted relationship satisfaction than assessments of how well romantic partners match one’s ideal mate preferences. Furthermore, relationship satisfaction positively predicted mate retention behavior (Conroy-Beam, Goetz, & Buss, 2016). This line of research provides key insights into our theoretical understanding of mate preferences, the emotion of relationship satisfaction, and how the two are related. Additionally, this line of research integrates work from both evolutionary psychology and close relationships perspectives. In my on-going research in this area I am examining how individual differences relate to mate value discrepancies and how mate value discrepancies relate to other relationship emotions. I found an indirect, negative relationship between the Dark Triad traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) and relationship satisfaction that is mediated by mate-value discrepancies (Goetz & Meyer, 2017). In a separate set of studies, I am examining how mate value discrepancies predict anger and shame in response to romantic relationship transgressions.