Department of Psychology
Saint Mary’s University
How Women Compete for Mates
Monday, February 28, 2011
Science 1 room 149, 5:00 PM
Past research into how people compete for mates has been dominated by studies on how people self-promote their positive attributes, or how they derogate the positive attributes of potential rivals. One problem with this work is that it has exclusively relied on survey methodology. Thus, in this talk, I will present work that uses the novel approach of facial attractiveness ratings as a vehicle to explore female intrasexual competition, particularly the derogation of competitors. Previously, I found that women who were most fertile derogated the facial attractiveness of other women, as compared to less fertile women, as based on their ovulatory cycle. Competitor derogation was not influenced by relationship status, suggesting that romantically uninvolved individuals derogate to acquire a new mate, while romantically involved individuals derogate to maintain an existing relationship. What remained unknown, though, was why women derogate potential rivals at all, given that making negative statements about others may make them seem less kind. New results suggest that their derogations influence men, depending on the rival’s attractiveness, and thus, it represents and effective strategy in some contexts. Furthermore, these new findings indicate that particular types of content for derogations decreases very specific perceptions of the rivals’ characteristics.
Maryanne L. Fisher completed her doctoral degree at York University in 2004, and is now at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, mostly on interpersonal relationships. Her research interests include mate selection, sex differences in competition for mates, maintenance of romantic relationships, and the measurement of physical attractiveness.
- Fisher, M. and Cox, A. Four strategies used during intrasexual competition for mates. Personal Relationships, 2010. [PDF]
- Fisher, M., Shaw, S., Worth, K., Smith, L., and Reeve, C. How We View Those Who Derogate: Perceptions of Female Competitor Derogators. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2010. 4(4) 265-276. [PDF]