In humans, both sexes sometimes show peculiar mating preferences that do not appear to increase their fitness either directly or indirectly. As humans may transmit their preferences and target culturally, and these may be artificially modifiable, I develop theoretical models where a preference and/or a trait are culturally transmitted with a restriction of the trait modification. I assume a monogamous population where some individuals fail to find a mate, and this affects the preference and the trait in the next time step. I show that a strong aversion to, or high tolerance of, failed individuals are necessary for the evolution of irrational preferences that neither seek good genes nor any direct benefit. This evolution is more likely to occur when the preference and/or the trait are cultural rather than genetic. These results may partly explain why humans sometimes show mating preferences for exaggerated physical and cultural traits.
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