Mating and memory: Can mating cues enhance cognitive performance?

Michael D. Baker*, H. Nicole Sloan, Alexandra D. Hall, Jennifer Leo, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The literature on sexual selection and the social brain hypothesis suggest that human cognition and communication evolved, in part, for the purpose of displaying desirable cognitive abilities to potential mates. An evolutionary approach to social cognition implies that proximate mating motives may lead people to display desirable mental traits. In signaling such traits, one can increase the likelihood of attracting a potential mate. Two experiments demonstrated that exposure to mating cues-highly attractive opposite-sex faces-led people to display enhancements in declarative memory-a process underlying a variety of abilities such as resource acquisition, intelligence, and creativity. Experiment 1 showed that men (but not women) displayed enhanced memory for details of a story that was presented during exposure to highly attractive opposite-sex faces. Experiment 2 demonstrated that heightened displays of declarative memory reflect an enhancement in retrieval rather than in encoding. Findings contribute to the literatures on human mating and cognitive performance and provide novel insight into links between social processes and basic cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 23 2015


  • Adaptive memory
  • Costly signaling
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Mating
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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