Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating

Real life takes up most of my time these days and I’m only posting this because I haven’t posted in a few days. Anyway, I found this paper and I thought some of you might be interested. Note that the sample sizes are generally very small (# of males from Brazil included? 39. Finland? 28. France? 47) and that “the ISDP samples were primarily college students” (p. 269) – so it’s probably a good idea to be very cautious when interpreting the results. Unfortunately Finland is the only Scandinavian country included in the analysis. Anyway, some stuff from the paper:

“Abstract: The Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI; Simpson & Gangestad 1991) is a self-report measure of individual differences in human mating strategies. Low SOI scores signify that a person is sociosexually restricted, or follows a more monogamous mating strategy. High SOI scores indicate that an individual is unrestricted, or has a more promiscuous mating strategy. As part of the International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP), the SOI was translated from English into 25 additional languages and administered to a total sample of 14,059 people across 48 nations. Responses to the SOI were used to address four main issues. First, the psychometric properties of the SOI were examined in cross-cultural perspective. The SOI possessed adequate reliability and validity both within and across a diverse range of modern cultures. Second, theories concerning the systematic distribution of sociosexuality across cultures were evaluated. Both operational sex ratios and reproductively demanding environments related in evolutionary-predicted ways to national levels of sociosexuality. Third, sex differences in sociosexuality were generally large and demonstrated cross-cultural universality across the 48 nations of the ISDP, confirming several evolutionary theories of human mating. Fourth, sex differences in sociosexuality were significantly larger when reproductive environments were demanding but were reduced to more moderate levels in cultures with more political and economic gender equality. Implications for evolutionary and social role theories of human sexuality are discussed.” […]

“On average, men tend to possess more positive attitudes toward casual, low-investment sex than women do (Carrol et al. 1985; Fisher et al. 1988; Hendrick et al. 1985; Oliver & Hyde 1993; Townsend 1995; Wilson 1987). Men also report that they fantasize about having sex with multiple partners more than women do (Ellis & Symons 1990; Malamuth 1996), and men behaviorally seek short-term mateships more than women do (Blumstein & Schwartz 1994; Eysenck 1976; Laumman et al. 1994; Wiederman 1997). Experimental tests have further confirmed that men are more likely than women to consent to sex with a stranger when approached in a community setting (Clark & Hatfield 1989), even when the stranger is “vouched for” by a participant’s same-sex friend (Clark 1990). […]

This pervasive pattern of sexual differences – across attitudes, fantasy, and behavior – implies that men should be higher or more unrestricted on sociosexuality than women. Indeed, the direct evidence on this point is unequivocal, at least in United States. In every study published to date, American men report higher levels of sociosexuality than American women based on responses to the SOI. […]

(click to view full size)

“sex differences in sociosexuality appear to be culturally universal (at least across the spectrum of modern ISDP nations) […] The hypothesis that men should be more unrestricted than women across cultures is fundamental to several evolutionary theories of human mating (e.g., Buss & Schmitt 1993). In support of this perspective, men were more unrestricted than women across all nations of the ISDP. This tended to be true when looking at means, medians, and distributions; when looking at sociosexual attitudes and behaviors; and – most importantly – the magnitude of this difference was moderate to large in size regardless of the moderating effects of culture. Overall, the average mean-level man scored about three-quarters of a standard deviation higher on the SOI than the average mean-level woman – one of the largest and most robust cross-cultural differences ever documented in the sexuality literature (Oliver & Hyde 1994). In addition, based on ANOVA methods, the overall effect size of biological sex is quite large (η^2 =  0.15), more than double the more moderate effect size of nation (η^2 = 0.06).” […]

Among the 48 nations of the ISDP, the five nations with the highest levels of gender equity ratings on the United Nations Gender Development Index are Australia (d = 0.66), Canada (d = 0.75), the United States (d = 0.73), Belgium (d = 0.69), and the Netherlands (d = 0.76). In each nation, sex differences in sociosexuality are conspicuous, ranging from moderate to large in size. Relatively egalitarian sexual standards and gender role beliefs for men and women in modern cultures, therefore, may attenuate sex differences in sociosexuality, but they appear unlikely to reduce them to less than moderately-sized magnitudes of effect. […] The current findings do suggest that women’s sociosexual attitudes and behaviors will get closer to men’s as gender equality becomes more common, but it seems unlikely that men and women would ever possess precisely equal levels of sociosexuality.”

Do note that the study itself is only half or so of the text in the link – the latter half is commentary and criticism provided by other people in the field.


September 12, 2012 - Posted by | Biology, Data, Demographics, Evolutionary biology, Psychology, Studies


  1. Given the “Sharpe ratios” (I know, my financial déformation professionnelle is showing) – mean divided by standard deviation – all of these distributions are very, very, very non-normal. It would have easily doubled the value of the study if the authors had provided an exhibit that visually sketched (even without too much detail) the shape of the distributions.

    On the lighter side, maybe it’s time for a “bait Plamus to comment” category of posts 🙂

    Thanks for the link.

    Comment by Plamus | September 13, 2012 | Reply

    • The overlap between the hypothetical ‘bait Plamus to comment’-category and the currently used ‘data’/’economics’-categories is probably big enough to make such an extra category superfluous. 😉

      Comment by US | September 14, 2012 | Reply

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