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Mate choice is a process of negotiation in which individuals make decisions about whether or not to allow a relationship with a prospective mate to develop into a long-term relationship. In some cases, this process begins with opening bids between strangers. Although each individual may have a clearly perceived set of preferred options, frequency-dependent effects and constraints on available search time often mean that individuals have to settle for less than ideal partners. Age is a criterion that males use in judging the mate value of prospective female partners, because it correlates with fertility. In this paper, we analyze personal advertisements to show that women may decline to declare their age in order to appear younger than they really are. This allows them to be more demanding than they would otherwise be able to be. A comparison of trait profiles with those of women of known age suggests that individuals who disguise their ages are likely to be in the age range 35 to 50 years. Three alternative explanations for this can be suggested: such behavior might be an attempt to find a high-quality partner (1) before their reproductive opportunities are foreclosed by menopause, (2) to replace lost paternal investment, or (3) to reduce the burden on the children of caring for aging parents by obtaining companionship and assistance from a new partner. © 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original publication




Journal article


Evolution and Human Behavior

Publication Date





53 - 69