WHILE the basis of what women find attractive has definitely shifted through the ages, HELP University College psychology lecturer Charis Wong emphasises that it is not so much from brawn to brain, but rather a change in our value systems. As an example, she points out the role of James Bond played by Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.
In that movie, Bond did not always get the woman.
It was also the first film where a woman, Dame Judy Dench, was cast as Bond's boss M.
"I think the film's depiction of Bond was a good barometer of the changing times and tastes of the public because it was a commercial venture and had to pander to what the producers think the audience wants.
"So, if art imitates life, we can hazard that the film portrays a clear shift in female expectations -- from Sean Connery's macho Bond to a more feminine version portrayed by Brosnan."
For Dr Sharon A. Bong, senior lecturer in Monash University, classic criterion like financial stability still matters, "and when people are really honest, looks matter also".
But she believes other parts of the equation are surfacing like religious affiliation, ethnicity and cultural upbringing.
"When people talk about soul mates, they usually define it as a person who is on the same page in terms of values, aspiration or religion. For some people, it goes even deeper than that."
It transcends wealth, education, intelligence, sensitivity, exposure and even mindset, says Bong.
"This new ethos is one that is culturally cultivated and egalitarian. I find a lot of young people are drawn to those who are politically motivated, an environmentalist or one who has a heart for people who are marginalised.
"Still, it's a very holistic thing. If someone is packaged with good looks, that's a bonus."
She attributes this partly to the breaking out from so-called "traditional values" as women become exposed to human rights discourse and the issue of gender inequality.
"A woman exposed to these would certainly expect more.
"She is also not the kind who sees a relationship as something that would define her totally."
That's why women these days find great companionship in gay friends "because a woman feels she is valued differently in the presence of these men and conversations happen".
"The whole equation of brain or brawn, status or money... I suppose many people still buy into that. But the need for a deeper connection may account for relationship dissatisfactions.
"It also raises the question of whether the breakdown in social relationships we see today has anything to do with the kinds of expectations not met in day-to-day realities," she said.
The failure to meet these expectations may be why the marriage institution is breaking down, why people are marrying later, and why couples are not keen to have children.
"As expectations shift, people in a position to choose are choosing not to settle for less. They're finding other ways in which to fulfil themselves."