Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

All You Need Is... Kindness?

New research shows top characteristics sought after in mates.

What is it that we look for when we seek out romantic partners? And, are the preferences we look for the same across countries and cultures? These are the questions a newly published research study sought to answer when asking 2,477 college students around the world what characteristics they'd prefer in a romantic partner.

The study, which now constitutes the largest test of the mate preference priority model, had participants in Eastern countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and Western countries, including the UK, Norway and Australia, design their ideal long‐term partner by being given a pretend monetary budget and being asked to allocate "mate dollars" to "buy" desirable traits for a mate within said fixed budget. Participants could choose from the following characteristics: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humour, chastity, religiosity, the desire for children, and creativity.

The study found that typically participants spent 22-26% of their total budget on kindness, with physical attractiveness and good financial prospects following closely. Unsurprisingly given previous research, men found physical attractiveness to be of greater importance than women, allocating 22% of their budget to the trait in comparison to 16%, respectively. Women, on the other hand, similarly found good financial prospects to be a trait of greater importance in an ideal mate than men, allocating 18% vs 12% of their budget to the trait.

In the end, the study shows that while culture influences some preferences, like chastity, what people really want—a human universal—is a partner who is kind.


Andrew G. Thomas, Peter K. Jonason, Jesse D. Blackburn, Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, Rob Lowe, John Malouff, Steve Stewart‐Williams, Danielle Sulikowski, Norman P. Li. Mate preference priorities in the East and West: A cross‐cultural test of the mate preference priority model. Journal of Personality, 2019