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Psychology researchers present on daughter-parent mate preference

Published on March 09, 2022

Psychology researchers present on daughter-parent mate preference

Noelle Ciccarelli
Psychology student Noelle Ciccarelli '23

Eastern Connecticut State University psychology student Noelle Ciccarelli presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) convention on Feb. 18. Ciccarelli’s project was titled “Similarities and Differences in Mate Preferences among Parents and their Daughters,” and focused on the ratings that daughters gave when seeking a male mate, compared to their parents’ ratings when seeking a mate for their daughters.

Ciccarelli partnered with Psychology Professors Madeleine Fugère and Alita Cousins on her research, and presented the findings virtually with Fugère.

Ciccarelli and Fugère used 91 daughter-parent pairs for the project, giving them surveys to determine their preferences. “Prior research has found discrepancies in the self-reported mate preferences of women and their parents," said Ciccarelli.

"Daughters placed a higher value on characteristics that indicate genetic quality and parents placed a higher value on personality characteristics. As hypothesized, women’s ratings of physical attractiveness had the strongest impact on their ratings of men’s dating desirability and daughters chose the more attractive man 69% of the time while parents chose the more attractive man 59% of the time,” said Ciccarelli. “Both parents and daughters chose the more attractive man more often than the man with the better personality, suggesting that physical attractiveness is important to both daughters and parents.”

Ciccarelli’s interest in this topic began in her first-year orientation. Curious about the science behind attraction and relationships, she chose to attend Fugère’s mock class titled “The Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships.”

Psychology Professor Madeleine Fugère

Psychology Professor Alita Cousins

“I chatted with her about her research, and once I was able to be a part of the study, I was hooked,” said Ciccarelli, who went on to take multiple classes taught by Fugère. Ciccarelli was then invited to be a research assistant by Fugère for her study on mate attraction.

“I have been working on this research with Dr. Fugère for over two years and I’m currently working on a publication with her, which is far beyond my wildest research dreams. I am ecstatic to work with Dr. Fugère as she believes in my abilities to achieve anything I set my mind to, even when my own beliefs falter, and she pushes me to take on all the new and exciting experiences that come my way.”

Noelle Ciccarelli
Ciccarelli's research poster. Her research was completed in partnership with Professors Fugère and Cousins.

“Noelle’s story is interesting,” said Fugère. “She participated in an earlier version of this research as a participant at the open house for admitted students, then decided to attend Eastern in the Honors Program, and began working on the research project with us. She worked with me to design this study, run the participants and analyze the results. We are currently working together to write up the manuscript along with our co-author Dr. Cousins.”

Ciccarelli is currently involved in two internships where she works closely with children as a social worker and play therapist. After Eastern, Ciccarelli aspires to take her educational career to the doctorate level and work toward a Ph.D. in developmental psychology.

“I am not exactly sure where I will end up after completing graduate school,” she said. “With all of the opportunities I have had at Eastern that have pushed me out of my comfort zone, from being a research and teaching assistant to taking on my own thesis project, to presenting at a conference, to working on a publication, I feel confident in my abilities to adjust to any situation that comes my way. It will definitely be interesting to see where I end up.”

Written by Bobbi Brown