Our view of the evolution of sexually selected traits and preferences was influenced radically in the 1990s by studies that emphasized how signals interact with sensory properties of receivers. Here, twenty-five years later, we review evidence that has accumulated in support of this idea. We replace the term sensory biases with perceptual biases to emphasize the growing knowledge of how cognitive processes generate selection on sexual traits. We show that mating preferences among conspecifics (e.g., sexual selection by mate choice) often are influenced by perceptual adaptations and constraints that have evolved in other contexts. We suggest that these perceptual biases need not be costly to females when they influence mate choice because in many cases they generate direct benefits. Although we do not reject a role for indirect benefits in mate choice, such as good genes, exclusive focus on eugenic mate choice limits our understanding of the evolution of the remarkable diversity of sexually selected traits.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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