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Oedipus Complex, Mate Choice, Imprinting; an Evolutionary Reconsideration of a Freudian Concept based on Empirical Studies

Tamas Bereczkei and Petra Gyuris

Abstract

Freud’s assumption that the Oedipal relationship plays an important part in shaping the future character of mate choice needs a scientific reconsideration that, in turn, requires setting an empirically testable explanation. The authors hypothesize that the close physical and emotional attachment between the mother and her son includes a sexual imprinting-like mechanism that influences the processing of childhood experiences. Here they present a set of experiments showing that adults prefer long-term partners who resemble the mental representation of their parent of the opposite sex. Furthermore, mating preferences were found to be shaped in the process of attachment; those mothers were most frequently used as mental models for their sons’ mate choice who provided more emotional warmth and less avoidance to their sons during childhood. The implications of the study’s results for the contemporary interpretation of Freudian theory are discussed.

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