Verbal Compliments as a Differential Source of Mate Poaching Threat for Men and Women

Document Type


Publication Date



Two studies tested whether people feel threatened by another individual verbally complimenting their romantic partner. Such compliments may indicate that the other person is a potential rival who will try to “poach” their mate. Across two studies, women were more threatened than men when imagining another person complimenting their partner’s physical appearance. There were no sex differences in response to imagining another person complimenting their partner’s sense of humor. When another person compliments one’s partner’s physical appearance, this indicates that they may be sexually attracted to the partner. Mediation analyses revealed that the sex difference occurs because women believe men are more open to casual sex, and therefore more vulnerable to mate poaching when another person expresses sexual interest in them.


Published in Evolutionary Psychology, 2014. 12(4): 736-756