Functionally Calibrating Life Satisfaction: The Case of Mating Motives and Self-Perceived Mate Value

Ahra Ko, Eunkook M. Suh, Ji eun Shin, Steven L. Neuberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extending the growing literature on adaptive functionality of inner experiential states, we take the approach that life satisfaction functions as a part of a psychological system that monitors current and potential achievement on important goals. From this perspective, life satisfaction is sensitively calibrated to how well one is moving toward success on important goals, thereby providing useful information for, and potentially motivating, subsequent goal-facilitating action. Focusing on mating goals, we investigated whether currently active and important mating goals shape the extent to which life satisfaction is sensitively and selectively calibrated by goal-specific cues of potential mating success—self-perceived mate value. As hypothesized, because most individuals (eventually) seek long-term committed relationships, self-perceived long-term mate value predicted life satisfaction for men and women regardless of relationship status. In contrast, and also as hypothesized, self-perceived short-term mate value predicted life satisfaction only for individuals with short-term casual mating goals—single uncommitted men (Studies 1, 2 A, and 2B), individuals dispositionally motivated toward short-term relationships (Studies 2 A and 2B), and single uncommitted women for whom short-term mating motivation was experimentally engaged, enabling causal inference (Study 3). Results support a functional conceptualization of life satisfaction, showing that currently active mating goals can shape the extent to which goal-specific self-perceived mate value predicts life satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-675
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Calibration
  • Functional approach
  • Life satisfaction
  • Mate value
  • Mating motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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