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Norman Li, MBA, PhD

Professor of Psychology

Singapore Mangement University

School of Social Sciences







Psychology Today blog

Social Psychology Network

Lab staff

Budget allocation materials





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My research is broadly classified under 1) mate preferences and mating and 2) evolutionary mismatch.


In examining mate preferences, I favor not only the use of effective experimental methods that social psychologists have devised, but also the incorporation of analytical tools from other disciplines. For instance, using methods from microeconomics, my colleagues and I were able to address a paradox in the mate choice literature: although social and evolutionary psychologists have pointed out why physical attractiveness should be important to men and status should be important to women, these characteristics never show up at the top of the lists when people have considered their ideal mates. By applying a budget allocation process and a mate screening paradigm, we were able to effectively distinguish between characteristics in a potential mate that are “necessities” and those that are “luxuries.” Our studies revealed that when considering long-term mates, men tend to prioritize finding a sufficient level of physical attractiveness, and women tend to prioritize obtaining sufficient social status. In other words, when looking for mates, most people ideally would like to have well-rounded mates who are attractive, intelligent, creative, financially well-off, etc. However, when choices are highly constrained, men tend to treat physical attractiveness as a necessity whereas women treat attractiveness as a luxury, and social status as a necessity (Li, Bailey, Kenrick, & Linsenmeier, 2002; Li & Kenrick, 2006). Budget allocation materials can be accessed in the above link.


Evolutionary mismatch is a powerful framework that explains most if not all the modern problems that individuals, groups, and societies are facing. For an introduction to this interesting paradigm, check out Li, van Vugt, & Collarelli (2018).