Do women derogate attractive others as a relationship maintenance strategy? examining the role of commitment and conception risk

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology, General


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Erin M. O'Mara


Women experience a change in mate preferences across the ovulatory cycle. At high conception risk when ovulation is likely, women prefer men who display cues of genetic fitness and therefore can ostensibly pass on the best genes to their offspring (Gangestad & Thornhill, 1998). This change in mate preferences during periods of high and low conception risk can be detrimental for long-term relationships. Women are more likely to engage in extrapair relationships during ovulation (Bellis & Baker, 1990) and they are more attracted to physically attractive alternative partners when they are ovulating, particularly when their partner is physically unattractive (Larson, Pillsworth, & Haselton, 2012). Research finds that compared to single men, attached men will derogate extrapair women when the extrapair women are ovulating (Miller & Maner, 2010). Evidence from the current study suggests that, similarly, women who are highly committed to their partners derogate physically attractive men at high conception risk. Results demonstrate that single women and women in a relationship did not rate photos of physically attractive men differently. However, own commitment and conception risk interacted such that women with high own commitment rated men less physically attractive at high conception risk compared to low conception risk. High perceived partner constraint commitment was associated with high ratings of the physically attractive alternative partner. The findings suggest that for women, own commitment is a more important factor than relationship status that motivates women to derogate physically attractive alternative partners. However, when women perceive their partner to be constrained to the relationship, women will be more open to seeking out physically attractive alternative options, following the dual-mating strategy (Pillsworth & Haselton, 2006). Findings are discussed in context of the contemporary relationship literature on evolutionary motivations in mate selection and relationship commitment.


Mate selection, Sexual attraction, Sex (Psychology), Commitment (Psychology), Social Psychology, Psychology, Romantic relationship, conception risk, attraction, commitment, ovulation, derogation

Rights Statement

Copyright 2015, author