Stone-age strategies and space-age media: Sex differences in sexual signaling on Facebook

  • Igor Miklousic Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar
  • Mia Karabegović Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University
  • Lukrecija Puljić Faculty of electronically engineering, University of Zagreb


Building on the proposition of the Sexual Strategies Theory that sex differences in mating strategies and intrasexual competition will be reflected in sexual signaling behavior towards possible mates, we sought to examine if such strategies would be observable on social networking sites. 


For the purpose of the study, ten male and ten female public profile pictures were randomly selected from a large pool of users (N = 1386) who chose to participate in the study and subscribed to a Facebook page created in order to aggregate users with an interest in Evolutionary psychology. Selected profile photos were then included in an online evaluation protocol, filled out by 31 independent raters, resulting in a total of 620 ratings. The protocol addressed nine evolutionarily relevant partner choice characteristics; 1) physical strength or athleticism, (2) access to resources or material possessions, (3) ambition or industriousness, (4) social status, (5) intelligence, (6) features of physical appearance, (7) features accentuating youthfulness, (8) high activity level, and (9) flirtatious behavior.


Males more frequently emphasized cues of social status, ambition and access to material resources, whereas females tended to emphasize features of physical appearance and of youthfulness. Furthermore, the perception of masculinity was mostly tied to the display of resources and physical strength, as was femininity to physical appearance and flirtatious behavior.


The Sexual Strategies Theory predictions of mating display behaviors were confirmed in online settings, demonstrating the robustness of sex differences in mating-related behaviors.