What is it about?

The preference for certain mates over others can be learned early in life. Here I report that men's preferences for a conspicuous trait, colourful eyes, are affected by the eye colour of mothers. Female faces with light (blue or green) eyes were liked better by men whose mother had light eyes; the effect broke down in those who had felt rejected by her as children. These results, garnered on over one thousand men, complete those of a symmetrical study on one thousand women, painting a fuller picture of human sexual imprinting. Both men and women appear to have imprinted on their opposite-sex parents unless these were perceived as cold and unjustly punitive. Consistent with human females being, as in most of the animal kingdom, the choosier sex, imprinted preferences were displayed by both sexes but translated into real-life partner choices solely in women—attractive women. Apparently, not all of us can afford to follow our own inclinations.

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Why is it important?

Birds need strong attachment to sexually imprint—a constraint that reduces the risk of acquiring the wrong sort of information. Parents who form no bond with their children may fail to be recognised as appropriate parental imprinting objects.

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This page is a summary of: In humans, only attractive females fulfil their sexually imprinted preferences for eye colour, Scientific Reports, April 2020, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-62781-7.
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