Might a person’s preferences for a mate vary according to whether they feel hungry or not?

 Some believe so, prompting professor Terry F. Pettijohn II from the Coastal Carolina University (along with colleagues from Miami University and West Virginia University) to investigate. For, according to the Environmental Security Hypothesis (ESH) individuals’ interpersonal preferences may partially depend on how secure or insecure they feel regarding their surroundings at any given time.

Over the course of two weeks, the investigators asked 328 students at a university dinning hall (who had varying self-reported degrees of hungriness) about their ideal romantic partners. Analysis of the responses showed up clear patterns.

“…hungry males preferred females with more physically mature features, specifically females who were relatively heavier, taller, and older.”

The answers were broadly consistent with the implications of the ESH – which suggests that societal threat or economic resource scarcity (e.g. being hungry) leads to an elevated preference for ‘more mature others’.

It should be noted though that there are apparently differences between hungry male students and hungry female students.

“Hungry men prefer female partners who are physically more mature and hungry women prefer male partners with more mature personality profiles”

say the researchers. There are, however, caveats which might partially cloud the results -  for example :

“College students may not always eat nutritiously, but there is abundant food available on and around the college campus.”

In other words, US college students might get hungry, but probably not often to a degree which would threaten their survival.

The research paper '
Hungry People Prefer More Mature Mates: A field test of the environmental security hypothesis' is published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology, 3(3), 216-232, and can be read in full here