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Stress influences mating preferences in humans

Stress beeinflusst menschliche Partnerpräferenzen

  • Stress is a common phenomenon for animals living in the wild, but also for humans in modern societies. Originally, the body's stress response is an adaptive reaction to a possibly life-threatening situation, and it has been shown to impact on energy distribution and metabolism, thereby increasing the chance of survival. However, stress has also been shown to impact on mating behaviour and reproductive strategies in animals and humans. This work deals with the effect of stress on reproductive behavior. Up to now, research has only focused on the effects of stress on reproduction in general. The effects of stress on reproduction may be looked at from two points of view. First, stress affects reproductive functioning by endocrine (e.g. glucocorticoid) actions on the reproductive system. However, stress can also influence reproductive behavior, i.e. mate choice and mating preferences. Animals and humans do not mate randomly, but exhibit preferences towards mating partners. One factor by which animals and humans choose their mating partners is similarity vs. dissimilarity: Similar mates usually carry more of one's own genes and the cooperation between similar mates is, at least theoretically, less hampered by expressing diverse behaviors. By mating with dissimilar mates on the other hand one may acquire new qualities for oneself, but also for one's offspring, useful to cope with environmental challenge. In humans we usually find a preference for similar mates. Due to the high costs of breeding, variables like cooperation and life-long partnerships may play a greater role than the acquaintance of new qualities.The present work focuses on stress effects on mating preferences of humans and will give a first answer to the question whether stress may affect our preference for similar mates. Stress and mating preferences are at the centre of this work. Thus, in the first Chapter I will give an introduction on stress and mating preferences and link these topics to each other. Furthermore, I will give a short summary of the studies described in Chapter II - Chapter IV and close the chapter with a general discussion of the findings and directions for further research on stress and mating preferences. Human mating behavior is complex, and many aspects of it may not relate to biology but social conventions and education. This work will not focus on those aspects but rather on cognitive and affective processing of erotic and sexually-relevant stimuli, since we assume that these aspects of mating behaviour are likely related to psychobiological stress mechanisms. Therefore, a paradigm is needed that measures such aspects of mating preferences in humans. The studies presented in Chapter II and Chapter III were performed in order to develop such a paradigm. In these studies we show that affective startle modulation may be used to indicate differences in sexual approach motivation to potential mating partners with different similarity levels to the participant. In Chapter IV, I will describe a study that aimed to investigate the effects of stress on human mating preferences. We showed that stress reverses human mating preferences: While unstressed individuals show a preference for similar mates, stressed individuals seem to prefer dissimilar mates. Overall, the studies presented in this work showed that affective startle modulation can be employed to measure mating preferences in humans and that these mating preferences are influenced by stress.
  • Menschen bevorzugen normalerweise Partner, die ihnen selbst ähneln. Allerdings sind Partnerpräferenzen auch Kontext-abhängig. Ein Kontextfaktor, der am Tiermodell gezeigt werden konnte, ist Stress. Der Einfluss von Stress auf die Partnerpräferenzen von Menschen war jedoch bisher unbekannt. In der Dissertation wurde ein Paradigma entwickelt um Partnerpräferenzen beim Menschen zu untersuchen. Mit Hilfe dieses Paradigmas wurde der Einfluss von Stress auf die Präferenz für ähnliche Partner bei Männern untersucht. Es konnte gezeigt werden, dass, während nicht-gestresste Männer ähnliche Partner bevorzugten, gestresste Männer eine Präferenz für unähnliche Partner zeigten.

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Author:Johanna Lass-Hennemann
Advisor:Hartmut Schächinger
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2010/06/25
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Granting institution:Universität Trier, Fachbereich 1
Date of final exam:2010/05/19
Release Date:2010/06/25
Tag:Affektive Startle Modulation
affective startle modulation; mating preferences; stress
GND Keyword:Partnerwahl; Physiologische Psychologie; Stress
Source:Zwei Kapitel dieser Dissertation sind 2009 bzw. 2010 erschienen in den Zeitschriften "International Journal of Psychophysiology" und "Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences"
Institutes:Fachbereich 1 / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie

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