Exceptional intelligence and easygoingness may hurt your prospects: Threshold effects for rated mate characteristics

Gilles E. Gignac, Clare L. Starbuck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Prospective mate characteristics such as kindness, intelligence, easygoingness, and physical attraction are ranked consistently highly by both men and women. However, rank measurement does not allow for determinations of what level of a mate characteristic is rated most desirable. Based on a more informative percentile scale measurement approach, it was reported recently that mean desirability ratings of IQ in a prospective partner peaked at the 90th percentile, with a statistically significant reduction from the 90th to the 99th percentiles. The purpose of this investigation was to replicate the recently reported non-linear desirability effect associated with IQ, in addition to the evaluation of three other valued mate characteristics: easygoing, kindness, and physical attraction. Based on a sample of 214 young adults, it was found that all four mate characteristics peaked at the 90th percentile. However, the IQ and easygoing mean desirability ratings evidenced statistically significant mean reductions across the 90th to the 99th percentiles, whereas kindness and physical attraction did not. Finally, the objectively and subjectively assessed intelligence of the participants was not found to be associated with the participants’ desirability ratings of IQ. We interpreted the results to be consistent with a broadly conceptualized threshold hypothesis, which states that the perceived benefits of valued mate characteristics may not extend beyond a certain point. However, mate characteristics such as intelligence and easygoing become somewhat less attractive at very elevated levels, at least based on preference ratings, for reasons that may be biological and/or psycho-social in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-172
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date21 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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