The Role of Vision in the Emergence of Mate Preferences

Meike Scheller* (Corresponding Author), Francine Matorres, Anthony Little, Lucy Tompkins, Alexandra de Sousa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Cross-cultural research has repeatedly demonstrated sex differences in the importance of partner characteristics when choosing a mate. Men typically report higher preferences for younger, more physically attractive women, while women typically place more importance on a partner’s status and wealth. As the assessment of such partner characteristics often relies on visual cues, this raises the question whether visual experience is necessary for sex-specific mate preferences to develop. To shed more light onto the emergence of sex differences in mate choice, the current study assessed how preferences for attractiveness, resources, and personality factors differ between sighted and blind individuals using an online questionnaire. We further investigate the role of social factors and sensory cue selection in these sex differences. Our sample consisted of 94 sighted and blind participants with different ages of blindness-onset: 19 blind/28 sighted males and 19 blind/28 sighted females. Results replicated well-documented findings in the sighted, with men placing more importance on physical attractiveness and women placing more importance on status and resources. However, while physical attractiveness was less important to blind men, blind women considered physical attractiveness as important as sighted women. The importance of a high status and likeable personality was not influenced by sightedness. Blind individuals considered auditory cues more important than visual cues, while sighted males showed the opposite pattern. Further, relationship status and indirect, social influences were related to preferences. Overall, our findings shed light on the availability of visual information for the emergence of sex differences in mate preference.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3785-3797
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number8
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


  • Blindness
  • Visual impairment
  • Mate preferences
  • Sex differences
  • Partner choice
  • Sensory cues


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