The predictive validity of ideal partner preferences: A review and meta-analysis

Paul W. Eastwick*, Laura B. Luchies, Eli J. Finkel, Lucy L. Hunt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


A central element of interdependence theory is that people have standards against which they compare their current outcomes, and one ubiquitous standard in the mating domain is the preference for particular attributes in a partner (ideal partner preferences). This article reviews research on the predictive validity of ideal partner preferences and presents a new integrative model that highlights when and why ideals succeed or fail to predict relational outcomes. Section 1 examines predictive validity by reviewing research on sex differences in the preference for physical attractiveness and earning prospects. Men and women reliably differ in the extent to which these qualities affect their romantic evaluations of hypothetical targets. Yet a new meta-analysis spanning the attraction and relationships literatures (k = 97) revealed that physical attractiveness predicted romantic evaluations with a moderate-to-strong effect size (r= ~.40) for both sexes, and earning prospects predicted romantic evaluations with a small effect size (r= ~.10) for both sexes. Sex differences in the correlations were small (rdifference =.03) and uniformly nonsignificant. Section 2 reviews research on individual differences in ideal partner preferences, drawing from several theoretical traditions to explain why ideals predict relational evaluations at different relationship stages. Furthermore, this literature also identifies alternative measures of ideal partner preferences that have stronger predictive validity in certain theoretically sensible contexts. Finally, a discussion highlights a new framework for conceptualizing the appeal of traits, the difference between live and hypothetical interactions, and the productive interplay between mating research and broader psychological theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-665
Number of pages43
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • Attraction
  • Close relationships
  • Ideal partner preferences
  • Sex differences
  • Traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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