Proximity, Touching, And Testosterone: An Observational Study Of Mate Retention Tactics In Humans
Mate guarding behaviors are strongly selected for in species that suffer from infidelity and cuckoldry. Two forms of mate guarding behaviors that have been found in self-report studies on humans are proximity and touching. Proximity actively prevents infidelity though the physical act of being present. Touching indirectly prevents infidelity by signaling to any potential rivals that their partner is taken, as well as signaling to the partner that they are being watched. Testosterone is a hormone implicated in competition and aggression. When in the presence of a potential rival, testosterone levels tend to increase. This increase should be related to mate retention behaviors. In the current study, proximity and touching, being used as forms of mate guarding while in the presence of a potential romantic rival, were analyzed. Change in testosterone’s effect on these mate retention behaviors was also analyzed. Other potential measures that were compared to the proximity and touching behaviors included self-report mate retention tactics, loyalty, commitment to one’s partner, investment in the relationship, attentiveness to romantic alternatives, relationship satisfaction, worry about partner infidelity, actual infidelity, self-reported touching desire, and fertility. Ninety-four couples interacted with an attractive confederate and their proximity and touching behaviors were recorded. Salivary testosterone measures were taken before and after the interaction with the confederate. Results show that proximity and touching behaviors increased while in the presence of the confederate. When a potential romantic rival was present, couples sat closer to each other and touched each other more often than they did when they were alone. Change in testosterone correlated with proximity in males when the confederate was male. One notable finding was that specific self-report mate retention items pertaining to proximity and touching related to the observable proximity and touching mate retention behaviors when a rival of the same gender was present. While the sample size for each group was smaller than ideal, and many of the supplemental associations were not found, the primary results on proximity and touching show that humans are engaging in, and using, these behaviors as mate retention tactics.