Demi Moore and Madonna can make perfect examples of celebs having real-life relationships with younger men, but the "cougar effect" is more than a Hollywood-fuelled fad, suggest Scottish researchers.
The study, conducted at Dundee's Abertay University, suggests successful, affluent females are more likely to choose younger, more attractive mates.
"Financially independent women are more interested in their potential partner being physically attractive than in him being wealthy or hardworking. They will also tolerate partners younger than themselves," The Scotsman quoted Dr Fhionna Moore, who led the study, as saying.
Moore, a teaching fellow in the school of social and health sciences, added: "Research has consistently shown sex differences in mating preferences, with women preferring older, wealthier partners and men preferring younger, physically attractive partners. Our results suggest that, when women can provide for themselves, their preferences become more like those typical of men.
These findings are important as they show that gender differences in sexual behaviour are not set in stone and implicate cultural as well as biological underpinnings.
The research will appear in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology later this month.