Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Carin Perilloux




mating, sexual selection, differences, gender


Error management theory (EMT) posits that when there are asymmetrical costs of false-positive and false-negative errors over evolutionary history, selection will favor psychological mechanisms biased toward less costly errors. In the mating domain, EMT explains the fact that men consistently overperceive women's sexual intent (SI), while women consistently underestimate men's commitment (CI). From a sexual selection perspective, underestimating women’s SI (false-negative) is more costly for men than overestimating (false-positive); whereas overestimating a man’s CI (false-positive) would have been more costly for women than underestimating (false-negative). Though the pattern of sex differences in SI and CI perception has been replicated many times, it is unknown whether sex of the perceiver or sex of the target mate (or perhaps even sexual orientation) determines the type of error-minimizing strategy employed (over- or under-estimation). Collecting data from homosexual and heterosexual samples allowed us to examine these previously untested distinctions. Participants rated the degree to which various behaviors indicated one’s own, or a potential mate’s, SI and CI. Results indicated that heterosexual women and lesbians perceived SI and CI similarly, whereas heterosexual and gay men did not. We conclude that homosexual mating strategy is complex: it is neither a simple continuation of heterosexual evolved mating psychology nor a gender-role reversal.