Both men and women tend to have greater dating success if they carry distinct genotypes linked to personality traits consistent with social gender norms, according to a new study by researchers from the University of California, Irvine.
The findings reveal the importance of the opioid and serotonergic systems to human mate selection, particularly their potential to arouse or dampen interest in potential partners.
The researchers found that participants were more likely to be asked on a second date if they carried genotypes consistent with personal traits that people often desire in a romantic partner: social dominance/leadership in males and social sensitivity/submissiveness in females.
For the study, the researchers wanted to determine whether mate selection could actually be influenced by people’s ability to quickly detect socially designated “good genes.” To test these predictions, the team followed participants during a speed dating session, in which people have only a few minutes to assess the short- and long-term potential of their speed-dating partners, and to decide whether or not they want a second date.
The speed-daters included 262 single Asian-Americans who engaged in three-minute dates with participants of the opposite sex. After each speed-date, participants were asked how desirable they found the other person as a romantic partner and whether or not they wanted to offer their partner a second date.
Participants were notified of a “match” (and therefore given each other’s contact information) only if they both wanted to see each other again.
When examining the DNA samples collected from participants, the researchers focused on two polymorphisms (on two different genes): the -1438 A/G polymorphism (linked to social dominance and leadership) and the A118G polymorphism (linked to social sensitivity).
The -1438 A/G polymorphism is part of the genetic make-up of the serotonin system and the A118G polymorphism is part of the opioid receptor gene that contributes to people’s capacity to experience social pleasure and pain and their need for social contact.
The findings show that men and women with genotypes consistent with prevailing gender norms were more likely to receive second date offers. They were also seen as more desirable short- and long-term romantic partners.
When it came to -1438 A/G, men who carried its G-allele variation were considered more desirable as potential mates and were more likely to receive second date offers. In contrast, women who carried this G-allele were more likely to be rejected.
With A118G, women with the G-allele enjoyed greater speed-dating success. However, their male counterparts had a harder time getting a second date.
“These results suggest that personal attributes corresponding to A118G and -1438 A/G can be detected in brief social interactions, and that having a specific genetic variant or not plays a tangible role in dating success,” said study leader Karen Wu, Ph.D.
“This highlights the importance of the opioid and serotonergic systems to human mate selection, particularly their potential to enhance or dampen one’s allure to potential partners.”
She adds that this genetic effect could extend beyond romantic attraction to other social situations, such as job interviews.
The findings are published in the journal Human Nature.