Men's altruism may have evolved, via female choice, as a signal of either their genetic quality or their willingness to allocate resources to offspring. The possibility that men display altruism to signal their genetic quality may be tested by examining women's preference for men's altruism across the stages of the menstrual cycle. Because women can maximize reproductive benefits by mating with men who have "good genes" on high-fertility versus low-fertility days, women should show a heightened preference for male altruism on high-fertility days compared to low-fertility days, and this heightened preference should be more apparent when women evaluate men for short-term sexual relationships than for long-term committed relationships. The possibility that men display altruism to signal their willingness to provision, as opposed to their genetic quality, may be tested by examining women's preference for men's altruism toward different recipients. More specifically, altruistic behavior toward family members may reflect a willingness to provide resources for kin and, hence, willingness to provision, whereas altruistic behavior toward strangers may function as an honest signal of genetic quality. In two samples of young women (Ns = 131 and 481), we found no differences between high- and low-fertility participants in preference for men's altruism, and women preferred men's altruism more in long-term than short-term relationships. The findings suggest that men's altruistic behavior functions as a signal of willingness to provide resources rather than genetic quality.
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