Why We Prefer 'Okay' Mates to Our Idea of a 'Perfect' One

Why do we prefer Mr. or Ms. Okay over Mr. or Ms. Perfect? A deeply rooted evolutionary bias propels us to take the surest route to passing on our genes.

Why do we prefer Mr. or Ms. Okay over Mr. or Ms. Perfect? A deeply rooted evolutionary bias propels us to take the surest route to passing on our genes, say researchers at Michigan State University, even when it comes at the expense of possibly finding a better partner.


In a computer simulation, researchers modeled the evolutionary behavior of a small community over thousands of generations. When it came to making high-risk decisions, such as who to mate with, the more risk-averse the population, the better it fared over the long term. When we delay finding a mate and hold out for better options, we risk missing the opportunity to pass on our genes at all: a punishing result in evolutionary terms.

The computer model simulated a small group of individuals because our ancient ancestors lived in groups no larger than 150 members. This meant resources were scarce, including dating prospects. Today, our social reach, spanning from intimate friends to casual acquaintances, remains about the same. An essential difference, however, is that online dating greatly expands the reach of romantic possibilities. Biological Anthropologist Helen Fisher explains in her Big Think interview:

"I think that online dating is just the newest way of doing the same old thing.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s actually a little bit more natural..."

Researchers emphasized that not everyone approaches risk in the same way and that, within individual groups, varying degrees of risk aversion produced evolutionary benefit. In other words, it's good that some individuals take bigger risks than others, assuming that the benefits and losses are distributed evenly throughout the community. 

Read more at Science Daily.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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