So maybe the person we end up marrying isn’t a good proxy for our mate preferences per se.(this is starting to get kind of depressing) They investigate this hypothesis in a followup study where they directly ask twins about their preferences for an ideal mate.They found that both men and women were more likely to marry someone of the race of their opposite-sex parent than of their same-sex parent (eg if you’re a woman with a Hawaiian mother and white father, you’re more likely to marry a white person).
It’s not consistent with a simple genetic theory where you just get both parents’ genes.
It might be consistent with a more complicated genetic theory where mate preferences are on a sex-appropriate chromosome or get chromosomally imprinted such that you only care about your father’s preferences for women and your mother’s preferences for men, but this is hard and I haven’t seen any analysis of whether it’s evolutionarily worth it.
The authors took a different tactic and pointed out that most of us don’t marry the first person we have a crush on, or even the second or third.
Sometimes we marry the tenth person we really like, sometimes we settle for people we only like a little, and sometimes we get drunk, have sex in a cheap motel, and have the person’s parent threaten us with a shotgun unless we go to the chapel right now.
Then they put them in cages with both female zebra finches and female Bengalese finches and observed which females the birds tried to court.
The results were pretty striking; they overwhelmingly went for the Bengalese finches who looked like their mothers, not the zebra finches who were genetically more suitable.
If we want to play the dangerous game of trying to explain differences between contradictory studies instead of just dismissing everything as noise, I might argue that this looked at some pretty different variables compared to the last set.
Instead of looking at facial similarities, it’s looking at things like social attitudes and religiosity; young children trying to imprint on their mother’s image can maybe be forgiven for not knowing her opinion about Asian immigrants (one of the “social attitudes” questions they asked).
Enquist, Aronsson, Ghirlanda, Jansson, and Jannini (2010) starts its Methods section with “We obtained data through newsgroups fetish and fetish.breastmilk”, so you know it’s gonna be interesting.
They test another feature of men sexually imprinting on their mothers: suppose you’re a man with a sibling a few years younger than yourself.
Here they’re able to get some more immediately visual data – preferences like tall/short, long-hair/short-hair, beards/clean-shaven, even big-breasts/small-breasts.