Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Socio-sexuality and episodic memory function in women: further evidence of an adaptive "mating mode".

Smith, David S.; Jones, Benedict C.; Allan, Kevin


Benedict C. Jones

Kevin Allan



The functionalist memory perspective predicts that information of adaptive value may trigger specific processing modes. It was recently demonstrated that women's memory is sensitive to cues of male sexual dimorphism (i.e., masculinity) that convey information of adaptive value for mate choice because they signal health and genetic quality, as well as personality traits important in relationship contexts. Here, we show that individual differences in women's mating strategies predict the effect of facial masculinity cues upon memory, strengthening the case for functional design within memory. Using the revised socio-sexual orientation inventory, Experiment 1 demonstrates that women pursuing a short-term, uncommitted mating strategy have enhanced source memory for men with exaggerated versus reduced masculine facial features, an effect that reverses in women who favor long-term committed relationships. The reversal in the direction of the effect indicates that it does not reflect the sex typicality of male faces per se. The same pattern occurred within women's source memory for women's faces, implying that the memory bias does not reflect the perceived attractiveness of faces per se. In Experiment 2, we reran the experiment using men's faces to establish the reliability of the core finding and replicated Experiment 1's results. Masculinity cues may therefore trigger a specific mode within women's episodic memory. We discuss why this mode may be triggered by female faces and its possible role in mate choice. In so doing, we draw upon the encoding specificity principle and the idea that episodic memory limits the scope of stereotypical inferences about male behavior.


SMITH, D.S., JONES, B.C. and ALLAN, K. 2013. Socio-sexuality and episodic memory function in women: further evidence of an adaptive "mating mode". Memory and cognition [online], 41(6), pages 850-861. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 7, 2013
Online Publication Date Feb 7, 2013
Publication Date Aug 31, 2013
Deposit Date Jul 26, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 26, 2022
Journal Memory and Cognition
Print ISSN 0090-502X
Electronic ISSN 1532-5946
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 41
Issue 6
Pages 850-861
Keywords Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Public URL


SMITH 2013 Socio-sexuality (545 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations