The setting: An experiment using speed-dates to determine what people want in a first date. These are brief, four minute interactions, after which you write down whether or not you’d be willing to go on a date with that person.
The subjects: Columbia University grad students
Both men and women like attractive mates, but men show a slightly stronger preference.
Both like smarter mates, though it is more important to women. Women’s desire for a smarty-pants does not atrophy as he gets smarter than her. Men like women who are much smarter than them about the same as those who are just as smart as them. Both are preferred to women dumber than him. Using objective data (SAT scores) instead of subjective assessments, men don’t care at all about the intelligence conveyed in the SAT score. Women do.
Men like women who are about as ambitious as them, but don’t like them to be higher or lower in ambition. Women don’t care about ambition.
Women, unlike men, prefer men with higher incomes (proxied by the wealth of people in their home town zip code).
Women show a strong preference for men of their own race. Men show a slight preference.
As the number of potential dates go up, men like about the same percentage of available women. Women get more selective as the number of daters rises.
The paper: available here.