Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology



Desire for social status affects marital and reproductive attitudes: A life history mismatch perspective

Lim, A. J., Li, N. P., Manesi, Z., Neuberg, S. L., van Vugt, M., Meltzer, A. L., & Tan, K. (2023). Desire for Social Status Affects Marital and Reproductive Attitudes: A Life History Mismatch Perspective. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 100125.(link)

A b s t r a c t

Modern low fertility is an unresolved paradox. Despite the tremendous financial growth and stability in modern societies, birth rates are steadily dropping. Almost half of the world’s population lives in countries with belowreplacement fertility and is projected for a continued decline. Drawing on life history theory and an evolutionary mismatch perspective, we propose that desire for social status (which is increasingly experienced by individuals in industrialized, modern societies) is a key factor affecting critical reproductive preferences. Across two experimental studies (total N = 719), we show that activating a desire for status can lead people to prefer reproductive tradeoffs that favor having fewer children, thereby predicting preferences for delaying both marriage and having a first child. These data support an evolutionary life history mismatch perspective and suggest a complementary explanation for declining fertility rates in contemporary societies, especially developed and economically advanced ones.


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