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Male Facial Attractiveness: Evidence for Hormone-Mediated Adaptive Design



Experimenters examining male facial attractiveness have concluded that the attractive male face is (1) an average male face, (2) a masculinized male face, or (3) a feminized male face. Others have proposed that symmetry, hormone markers, and the menstrual phase of the observer are important variables that influence male attractiveness. This study was designed to resolve these issues by examining the facial preferences of 42 female volunteers at two different phases of their menstrual cycle. Preferences were measured using a 40-s QuickTime movie (1200 frames) that was designed to systematically modify a facial image from an extreme male to an extreme female configuration. The results indicate that females exhibit (1) a preference for a male face on the masculine side of average, (2) a shift toward a more masculine male face preference during the high-risk phase of their menstrual cycle, and (3) no shift in other facial preferences. An examination of individual differences revealed that women who scored low on a “masculinity” test (1) showed a larger menstrual shift, (2) had lower self-esteem, and (3) differed in their choice of male faces for dominance and short-term mates. The results are interpreted as support for a hormonal theory of facial attractiveness whereby perceived beauty depends on an interaction between displayed hormone markers and the hormonal state of the viewer.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Running head: Hormones and Facial Attractiveness.
Male Facial Attractiveness: Evidence for hormone mediated adaptive design.
Victor S. Johnston and Rebecca Hagel
New Mexico State University
Melissa Franklin
University of New Mexico
Bernhard Fink and Karl Grammer
Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology
Vienna, Austria
Correspondence should be addressed to: Victor S. Johnston, Department of Psychology, New
Mexico State University, Las Cruces, 88003 New Mexico, USA
Tel: (505) 646 2800, Fax: (505) 646 6218, email:
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Experimenters examining male facial attractiveness have concluded that the attractive male
face is (1) an average male face, or (2) a masculinized male face, or (3) a feminized male face.
Others have proposed that symmetry, hormone markers, and the menstrual phase of the
observer, are important variables that influence male attractiveness. This study was designed
to resolve these issues by examining the facial preferences of 42 female volunteers at two
different phases of their menstrual cycle. Preferences were measured using a 40-second
QuickTime movie (1200 frames) that was designed to systematically modify a facial image
from an extreme male to an extreme female configuration. The results indicate that females
exhibit (1) a preference for a male face on the masculine side of average, (2) a shift toward a
more masculine male-face preference during the high-risk phase of their menstrual cycle, (3)
no shift in other facial preferences. An examination of individual differences revealed that
women who scored low on a ‘‘masculinity’’ test (1) showed a larger menstrual shift, (2) had
lower self-esteem and (3) differed in their choice of male faces for dominance and short-term
mates. The results are interpreted as support for a hormonal theory of facial attractiveness.
Keywords: humans; facial attractiveness; sexual selection; mate choice; menstrual cycle;
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
In a fraction of a second, the brain of a human male or female can ascertain the
physical attractiveness of another person’s face (Johnston & Oliver-Rodriguez, 1997; Oliver-
Rodriguez, Guan, & Johnston, 1999). This remarkable feat appears to depend on the delicate
interplay between physical markers on the face, perhaps fitness indicators (Miller, 2000), and
exquisitely sensitive brains that generate feelings, perhaps fitness monitors (Johnston, 1999),
in response to such signals. Support for this model comes from studies that have used various
image-processing techniques to systematically manipulate the features and proportions of
female facial images and observe the behavioral and/or emotional responses of men and
women exposed to such images. The current experiment attempts to evaluate and refine this
model by examining how the attractiveness of male and female faces varies with both their
displayed hormone markers, and the hormonal state of female viewers, as indicated by their
menstrual phase.
Early studies suggested that the most attractive female face was the average face in a
population (Langlois, & Roggman 1990; Langlois, Roggman, Musselman, & Acton, 1991;
Langlois, Roggman, & Musselman, 1994). Several experimenters, however, have concluded
that the image processing technique used in these studies may be flawed, and proposed that
although the average face is attractive, it is not the most attractive face in a population (Alley
& Cunningham, 1991; Johnston, 2000). Strong support for the ‘‘non-average’’ hypothesis
comes from Perrett, May, and Yoshikawa (1994), who demonstrated that an average face
made by combining random faces is judged to be less attractive than the average of attractive
faces drawn from the same random sample. Indeed, there is now substantial evidence
indicating that attractive female faces are not average, but differ from the average in a
systematic manner. More specifically, they possess a shorter, narrower lower jaw, fuller lips,
and larger eyes than an average face (Cunningham, Roberts, Barbee, Druen, & Wu, 1995;
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Johnston, & Franklin, 1993; Perrett et al., 1994). These specific markers have been shown to
be effective across cultures (Cunningham et al.,1995; Perrett et al.,1994) and
electrophysiological studies have revealed that they elicit emotional responses in male, but
not female, viewers of female faces (Johnston & Oiver-Rodriguez, 1997). Because pubertal
bone growth (brow ridges and lower jaw) is stimulated by androgens (Tanner, 1978) and lip
fullness parallels estrogen dependent fat deposits elsewhere on the female body (Farkas,
1981), Johnston and Franklin (1993) have hypothesized that an attractive female face may be
displaying hormone markers (high estrogen/ low androgen) that serve as reliable indicators of
In contrast to the research on female facial attractiveness, studies examining the
importance of hormone markers on male faces have produced apparently incompatible
results. For example, although a number of experimenters have demonstrated that women
favor a ‘‘masculinized’’ male face possessing a large jaw, prominent brow ridges, and cheek-
bones (Grammer & Thornhill, 1994; Scheib, Gangestad, & Thornhill, 1999), other studies
have reported that both British and Japanese females prefer a more ‘‘feminized’’ male face
with a shorter than average lower jaw (Perrett, et al., 1998; Penton-Voak, et al.,1999). Still
others have found that a mixture of mature features (large lower jaw, prominent cheekbones
and thick eyebrows) and neotenous features (large eyes and small nose) is the most desirable
configuration of male faces (Cunningham, Barbee, & Pike, 1990). Some of these
inconsistencies across studies may result from the different procedures used to generate the
male facial stimuli. For example, both studies reporting a preference for feminized male faces
used a caricaturing technique to create their masculinized and feminized facial images.
Producing a masculinized male face using this procedure involves an algorithm that further
exaggerates the differences between an average female and an average male face. This
mathematical procedure is based on the assumption that extreme masculine and feminine
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
faces can be produced by a linear extrapolation of the differences between these average
faces. However, given that the majority of consistent male-female differences are the result
of bone-growth, which depends on a complex interaction between androgens, estrogens, and
growth hormone, this linear growth assumption may not be valid (Tanner, 1978; Grumbach,
A second undesirable consequence of caricaturing is its effects on facial symmetry.
Average male and female faces are inevitably low in fluctuating asymmetries (traits that
differ among individuals but are symmetrical at a population level) so morphs generated
between such faces (feminized males and masculinized females) will invariably be quite
symmetrical. It is also inevitable, however, that any small deviations from perfect symmetry
that exist in either the average male or average female face will be substantially exaggerated
in caricatured faces (masculinized males and feminized females). Caricaturing, therefore, is
likely to generate feminized male facial images that are more symmetrical than masculinized
male images. Because facial symmetry has been shown to be correlated with attractiveness
(Grammer & Thornhill, 1994; Mealey, Bridgstock, & Townsend, 1999; Townsend &
Gangestad, 1999; Rhodes, Proffitt, Grady, & Sumich, 1988; Perrett et al., 1999), the observed
preference for feminized over masculinized male facial images may be an artifact arising
from differences in symmetry between these faces. The current study attempts to improve the
research methodology by examining preferences for male (and female) faces that have been
masculinized (or feminized) on the basis of perceived masculinity (or femininity), rather than
employing the caricaturing technique.
Low fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is thought to reflect an ability to resist the harmful
effects of mutations, parasites, and/or toxins during development (Møller & Swaddle, 1997).
Because such resistance is partially heritable (Møller & Thornhill, 1997), there may be
important fitness benefits for females who exhibit a preference for such mates. A variety of
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
experimental findings support this hypothesis. Across species, symmetrical males have
significantly greater mating success (Møller & Thornhill, 1998), and symmetrical men have
been shown to be more desirable and have more sexual opportunities than asymmetrical men
(Thornhill & Gangestad, 1994; Gangestad & Thornhill, 1997). In populations lacking
widespread contraception and modern medicine, these enhanced sexual opportunities can be
translated into more offspring and better health (Waynforth, 1998). However, despite the
correlation between symmetry and attractiveness, it appears that human females may not use
or even perceive fluctuating asymmetries when judging the attractiveness of male faces
(Scheib, Gangestad, & Thornhill, 1999).
Scheib and colleagues (1999) found that the measured FA of male faces was not only
correlated with their attractive ratings, but was also correlated with the attractiveness ratings
of a right or left half-face; circumstances where all cues to bilateral symmetry are absent.
Clearly, their experimental participants did not require cues to bilateral symmetry in order to
make accurate judgments of attractiveness. It appears that the salient cues for attractiveness
are apparent on each half of a male’s face and their presence is correlated with computed FA,
but nor perceived symmetry. An examination of the attractive faces led the authors to
conclude that the specific features correlated with attractiveness and FA were a longer lower
jaw and prominent cheekbones. Keating (1985) also found that the shape of the lower jaw
was an important attribute of male facial attractiveness. Using an Identi-Kit methodology, she
examined the effects of eye-size, lip fullness, brow thickness, and jaw shape, on both
dominance and attractiveness ratings. As she had predicted, the combination of masculine
features (square jaw, narrow eyes, thick eyebrows, and thin lips) enhanced the dominance
ratings of male faces, but only a subset of these attributes (square jaw and thin lips) resulted
in significantly higher attractiveness ratings. It appears that some high testosterone markers
(square jaw), and low estrogen markers (thin lips) influence both the dominance and
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
attractiveness of male faces, but dominance and attractiveness are not identical attributes.
Given these prior results, the current study attempts to clarify the role of hormone markers in
the perception of dominance and attractiveness, in both male and female facial images.
Some of the discrepancy in findings among male attractiveness studies may be a
consequence of differences in the participant populations. One potential source of variance is
the hormonal status of female participants. Penton-Voak, et al. (1999) have shown that
females’ preferences for male faces changed as a function of the viewer’s menstrual phase at
the time of testing. Specifically, females tested during the nine days prior to ovulation (high
conception risk group) preferred a less feminized male face than females tested outside of this
window (low conception risk group). In their most recent study, using 139 participants who
responded to a magazine survey, Penton-Voak and Perrett (2000) reported that women in the
high conception risk group were significantly more likely to prefer a masculine face than
those in the low concept risk group. The authors interpret their findings as evidence for a
conditional mate choice strategy whereby females in the high conception risk group are
exhibiting a preference for male facial cues that signal adaptive heritable genetic
characteristics, such as immunocompetence. However, these menstrual studies have not
shown that the observed change in preference over the menstrual cycle is specific to attractive
male faces. Do females’ preferences for female faces also change? If so, then the observed
effect may simply reflect a general change in mood over the menstrual cycle (Dalton, 1982),
rather than a specific adaptation. Only a specific effect on male facial attractiveness would
provide strong evidence for complex adaptive design (Williams, 1966). To explore the
generality of the menstrual effect, the current study examined how a variety of different facial
preferences (attractive male, attractive female, dominant male, dominant female, etc.) were,
or were not, modified by the hormonal state of female viewers.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
The participants were 42 female volunteers between 18 and 35 years of age (M= 22).
These women were recruited from the undergraduate population at New Mexico State
University in Las Cruces (USA) and the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology in
Vienna (Austria). Participation in the experiment was limited to volunteers who stated that
they were (1) heterosexual, (2) not currently pregnant or breast feeding a child and (3) not
currently taking any steroid medications or birth control pills. All participants signed an
informed consent document indicating that they were volunteering for an experiment on
facial preferences that would be conducted over two experimental sessions. They were also
informed that they would be asked to provide relevant personal information, all such data
would be confidential, and they could withdraw from the experiment at any time.
In order to measure facial preferences, the method developed by Perrett et al. (1998)
was modified so that average male and female facial images could be masculinized or
feminized to varying degrees on the basis of perceived masculinity and femininity, rather
than the caricature procedure used by these authors. The final experimental tool was in the
form of a 1200-frame QuickTime movie that gradually morphed an extremely masculine
male facial image into to an extremely feminine face, at a rate of 30 frames per second. The
movie was created in four steps (Figure 1).
First, sixteen random male and sixteen random female facial images were separately
morphed to produce a composite average male and a composite average female image. The
male photographs were taken from college students between 18 to 26 years of age. The
female pictures were digital images from a CD-ROM by the Japanese artist Akira Gomi
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
(1998), and ranged in age from 18 to 30. All of the photographs were taken under constant
light conditions and showed faces with neutral expression and with no apparent make-up,
facial hair, or adornments (e.g., earrings). Prior to morphing, all pictures were standardized
to the same orientation using the procedure described by Rikowski and Grammer (1999).
Using the ‘‘Facial Explorer’’ program (Grammer, Fieder, & Fink, 1998) the composite
average male and the composite average female image were produced in a single step. [For
details on the morphing algorithm itself see Wolberg (1990), Beier & Neely (1992), Gomes,
Darsa, Costa, & Velho (1999)].
Next, the features and proportions of a perceived masculine and a perceived feminine
face were ‘‘evolved’’ using the FacePrints software program (Johnston, 1994). The details of
this program have been described elsewhere (Johnston & Franklin, 1993). In essence,
FacePrints employs a genetic algorithm that allows participants to search a multidimensional
face-space of more than 34 billion possibilities and find their most masculine or most
feminine facial image. Together with the average male and female faces, these masculine-
male and feminine-female faces defined the features and proportions of the four key data
points needed to construct a movie that slowly morphed a masculine male face to a feminine
female face. However, in order to conceal the locations of the perceived masculine and
feminine faces, both ends of the movie were extrapolated using a five second caricature. That
is, the average male to masculine-male difference was extrapolated to produce an extremely
masculine male facial image and caricaturing the average female to feminine-female
difference produced an extremely feminine face. In the final step, all faces were fitted with
the same androgynous hairstyle and the movie clips were combined into a single QuickTime
movie using Adobe Premiere™. In essence, the movie permitted systematic modification of
the major features and proportions that differentiate human male from female faces following
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
puberty (Farkas, 1981). A user could move back and forward through the movie using both a
slider control and single frame buttons.
Figure 1 about here.
Facial symmetry measures were obtained following the procedure developed by
Grammer and Thornhill (1994). Based on the inter-correlations between naiver users, this
procedure has been shown to produce a highly reliable index of bilateral symmetry (Grammer
& Thornhill, 1994; Rikowski & Grammer, 1999). Twelve standard landmarks were
identified on the average and extreme male and female images used in the morph movie.
These landmarks included the innermost and the outermost corners of the eyes and the
leftmost and the rightmost edges of the nose. The points for measuring the cheekbones were
defined as the leftmost and the rightmost pixels of the face on a horizontal line directly
beneath the eyes. The x-coordinates of the jaw and mouth were identified as points on a
horizontal line passing through the corners of the mouth. The ‘‘Facial Explorer’’ program
(Grammer et al., 1998) then measured the midpoints of the six resulting horizontal lines and
computed an index of horizontal symmetry by summing the x-axis differences between the
midpoints. This analysis revealed that (1) the average male face was very symmetrical (FA =
16) and (2) symmetry decreased systematically toward the extreme masculine end of the
movie (FA = 16.5).
Each woman was evaluated during two experimental sessions that were exactly two
weeks apart. During session one, she viewed the morph movie and was told how to use the
slider and single step controls in order to find the male or female facial image that was closest
to a specified target face, such as an androgynous face. She was then required to use these
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
controls to find the facial image that most closely resembled a set of target faces. The targets
were, an average-male face (AvM), an average-female face (AvF), an attractive-male face
(AtM), an attractive-female face (AtF), a dominant-looking-male face (DoM), a dominant-
looking-female face DoF), a healthy-looking-male face (HtM), a healthy-looking-female face
(HtF), a masculine-looking-male face (MaM), a feminine-looking-female face (FmF), an
intelligent-looking-male face (ItM), an intelligent-looking-female face (ItF), a good-father-
male face (GfM), a good-mother-female face (GmF), and an androgynous face (Pat). In each
case, a descriptive phrase was used to clarify the desired target face. For example, an average
face was described as "a typical male (female) on the street", a dominant face as that of a
male (female) who was "more likely to give than take orders", an androgynous face as "a face
that could be either male or female", and an attractive face as "the male (female) that you like
best from this range of possibilities". The order of these target faces was counterbalanced
among participants, and between sessions.
As each target face was located, the experimenter noted the corresponding frame
number. When complete, the male faces (including the androgynous face) that had been
selected by the participant were re-displayed in a random order. While each face was visible,
the participant was asked to rate the face on 20 different attributes, using a 7-point Likert
scale for each rating. These attributes were: physically attractive, sexually exciting,
protective, intelligent, coercive, sensitive, impulsive, selfish, trustworthy, good parent for
child, dominant, healthy, masculine, wealthy, volatile, threatening, cooperative, manipulative,
helpful, and controlling. Using the same scale, participants also evaluated the desirability of
each face as a short-term mate (STM) and a long-term mate (LTM).
In session two, each returning woman was asked to select and rate the same set of
faces, using the procedures employed during session one. When these tasks had been
completed, she was required to respond to the 60-item Bem sex-role inventory (BSRI), and
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
the Rosenberg self esteem (SES) questionnaire (Bem, 1974; Rosenberg, 1965). Each woman
then completed a personal history form that included questions concerning the exact date of
her last menses (first day of bleeding), the typical length of her menstrual cycle, regularity of
her cycle, her age, her prior hormone use, and her pregnancy history. Finally, each
participant was given a debriefing statement that explained the purpose of the experiment,
and she was requested to telephone or e-mail the date of the onset of her next menses using
an assigned identification number. The requirement for a post-experiment menses report was
waived for those participants who, on the second session, reported a menses onset between
the two experimental sessions.
For each participant, the date of their last ovulation was computed using either their
post-experimental menses report or the reported menses between their experimental sessions.
Although the duration of the menstrual cycle varies among females, this variance is almost
exclusively confined to the follicular (pre-ovulatory) phase. Thus ovulation is almost exactly
14 days prior to the onset of the next menses, irrespective of the cycle length (Fluhmann,
1957; Matsumoto, Nogami, & Okhuri, 1962; Lein, 1979). In a 28-day cycle ovulation occurs
on about the 14th day; but in a 34-day cycle ovulation occurs on about the 20th day
(Katchadourian, 1980). In the absence of direct hormone measures, this counting backwards
procedure offered the most accurate method for determining the date of ovulation that was
closest to these participant’s test dates. Knowing the date of ovulation allowed each subject’s
menstrual state on the days of testing to be defined in terms of the number of days before or
after ovulation.
For each target face, the participants’ selections made during the follicular phase (pre-
ovulation) were compared to those made during the luteal phase (post-ovulatory) of their
menstrual cycle. A series of paired t-tests revealed that that there was no significant difference
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
in any face choice as a function of whether the woman was in her follicular or luteal menstrual
phase on the day of testing. A second analysis examined only those participants who had been
tested during the time of highest conception risk. Based on the probability of conception over
the menstrual cycle, the time of highest conception risk was defined as the nine days prior to
ovulation (Barrett & Marshall, 1969). Twenty-nine of the women had been tested within this
high-risk window. A within subject analysis of their data revealed that within the high-risk
window, these women selected an attractive male face that was significantly more masculine
than their choice outside of this window (t (28) = 2.20, p = .02). Furthermore, of all the male
and female facial preferences that were collected from these women, the attractive male face
was the only preference that changed significantly with conception risk. These findings
replicate and extend the menstrual shift effect first reported by Penton-Voak et al. (1999). The
observed shift in preference toward a more masculine male face was a change in preference
from a mean frame number of 299 during the low-risk phase, to frame 270 during the high risk
phase; a mean shift of 29 frames of the morph movie.
There was considerable variance in the size of the menstrual shift among the female
participants. These individual differences were clarified by examining the size of the
menstrual shift as a function of participants’ scores on the Bem sex-role inventory (BSRI). On
the BSRI, individuals are classified as androgynous if they score above the median value of
4.9 on both the masculinity (Bem-M) and femininity (Bem-F) scales (Bem, 1974). When
female participants were classified in this manner, the size of the menstrual shift was
significantly larger for the non-androgynous women (56 frames) compared to the androgynous
women (-5 frames); t (27) = 2.55, p = .017. A more detailed analysis revealed that the shift in
preference toward a more masculine male during the high-risk days of the menstrual cycle was
most closely related to a participant’s score on the masculinity scale. That is, there was a
significant inverse correlation between the size of participants’ menstrual shifts and their score
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
on the Bem-M scale (r = -.40, p = .03). Also, the size of the menstrual shift was significantly
different for participants classified as above or below the median on the BEM-M scale (t (27)
2.79: p = .009). The low masculinity group’s average attractive male face changed from frame
298 to frame 245 (a 53 frame shift) whereas the high masculinity group changed from 299 to
315, sixteen frames in the reverse direction (Figure 2).
Figure 2 about here.
Participants in the high Bem-M group, also scored higher on the Rosenberg self esteem
questionnaire (t (27) = 2.12, p = .04). Finally, irrespective of menstrual phase, high Bem-M
and low Bem-M women differed on the frame they selected as exemplifying a dominant male
face; (t (27) = 2.46, p = .02. The high Bem-M group selected an extreme masculine face
(frame 6), whereas the low Bem-M women perceived a much less masculinized male face
(frame 63) as depicting a dominant male. This was the only facial preference that differed
between these two groups of participants.
For all 29 participants, the selected mean frame number, over sessions, was computed
for each target face. For male faces, the means were as follows: DoM (43), MaM (115), AtM
(284), HtM (275), GfM (341), ItM (385), AvM (394), Pat (699). The attractive male face
was significantly more masculine than the average male face (t = 4.39 (28); p < .0001) and
significantly different from all other target faces with the exception of the healthy-male face
(t = 0.64 (28); p = .74). A similar analysis of the female target faces revealed the following
mean frame numbers: Pat (699), AvF (925), GmF (959), ItF (995), HtF (1021), FmF (1053),
AtF (1074), DoF (1195). In agreement with prior studies, the attractive-female face was
significantly more feminized than the average-female face (t (28) = 6.93, p < .0001), and
differed from all others except the feminine-female face (t (28) = 1.17, p = .88).
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Each of the 29 high-risk participants had selected eight male face types (including Pat)
during each experimental session, and subsequently rated each of these faces on twenty
different attribute scales. Averaged across sessions, this procedure yielded 232 male faces
with mean ratings for all twenty attributes. A Principal Components Analysis was performed
on the correlation matrix between the 20 attribute ratings that participants had assigned to
these faces. Three factors accounted for 75 percent of the variance: 46%, 22%, and 7%
respectively. All three factors were rotated using the Varimax method. The rotated factor
pattern indicated that the first factor was heavily loaded with negative attributes. In order of
importance, these were: threatening, volatile, controlling, manipulative, coercive, selfish,
dominant, and impulsive. On this basis, factor one (F1) was labeled the ‘‘Enemy’’ factor. F2
was named the ‘‘Friend’’ factor because, in order of magnitude, it was loaded with the
following positive attributes: helpful, cooperative, trustworthy, good father, wealthy, and
intelligent, all characteristics of a desirable friend. F3 was descriptively called the ‘‘Lover’’
factor. In order of importance, F3 factor-loadings were as follows: physically attractive,
sexually exciting, masculine, healthy, and protective. Figure 3 shows third-order polynomial
curves fitted to the mean factor scores of all three factors, over the first 700 frames of the
morph movie; from the extreme masculine face to the androgynous face. The curve for F1
reveals a progressive increase in perceived threat with increasing masculinity and a
pronounced increase in F1 scores with extreme masculinity. Perceived friendliness declines
rapidly with increasing masculinity, and the Lover factor, F3, peaks close to the location
where masculinized-faces received higher scores on F1 than F2.
Figure 3 about here.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Figure 4 shows third-order polynomial curves fitted to the mean ratings of male faces
with respect to their suitability as a short-term mate (STM) and as a long-term mate (LTM).
These preference curves are plotted separately for the high Bem-M and low Bem-M groups.
For the high Bem-M participants, the LTM and STM rating curves are similar. In both cases,
the preference rating initially increases with increasing masculinization, reaches a maximum
value, and then declines with further masculinization. This same preference pattern is
reflected in the LTM curve of the low-Bem-M participants, but the STM curve for this group
shows a remarkably different pattern. In this case, the desirability of a male as a STM
continues to increase with facial masculinization. That is, women who shift their preference
toward a more masculine male face during the high-risk phase of their menstrual cycle (low
Bem-M group) also prefer short-term mates with very masculine male features. To examine
the relationship between these facial preferences and the personality traits assigned to faces,
LTM and STM ratings were correlated with the F1, F2, and F3 factor scores of the same
faces. For high Bem-M participants, their LTM and STM mean ratings were significantly
correlated with both the Friend (r =.57, p < .001 and r =.44, p < .001, respectively) and Lover
(r = .62, p < .001 and r = .74, p < .001, respectively) factors, but not the Enemy factor.
Similarly, the low Bem-M group’s LTM ratings were significantly correlated with the Friend
(r = .41, p < .001) and Lover (r = .54, p < .001) factors, but their STM ratings were correlated
with the Enemy factor (r = .45, p < .001) and not significantly correlated with the Friend
factor (r = -.08). These relationships indicate that the personality attributes associated with
desirable STMs are quite different between the high Bem-M and low Bem-M participants.
Figure 4 about here.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
The morph movie used in the current experiment offers a sensitive tool for examining
facial preferences by providing participants with a choice among male and female facial
images that have been masculinizing and feminizing to varying degrees. Unlike caricaturing
techniques that masculinize or feminize faces on the basis of questionable mathematical
assumptions, the morph movie systematically changes the major facial features and
proportions that are perceived to characterize human maleness and femaleness following
puberty. Furthermore, because such secondary sexual characteristics are mainly a
consequence of different levels of pubertal hormones (Tanner, 1978; Grumbach, 2000), this
methodology provides a basis for interpreting how facial preferences are related to the degree
to which such hormonal markers are displayed on the faces of men and women.
In agreement with prior studies, the current results support the conclusion that women
prefer male faces that are more masculinized than an average male face (Mealey et al., 1999;
Penton-Voak & Perrett, 2000; Thornhill, & Gangestad, 1993). That is, the attractive male
face possesses more extreme testosterone markers, such as a longer, broader lower jaw, and
more pronounced brow ridges and cheekbones than the average male face. These same
hormone markers are also associated with good health. That is, when participants were
required to select a healthy male face, their choice was not significantly different from the
attractive male face. This finding suggests that women consider such testosterone markers to
be an index of good health and that important health considerations may underlie their
aesthetic preference. The close relationship between attractiveness and perceived health is
also evident in the analysis of the participants’ attribute ratings of male faces. On the basis of
their close correlation, the factor analysis grouped together physical attractiveness, sexually
exciting, masculinity, healthy, and protectiveness, as a single factor, F3, that increased
systematically with increasing masculinization (Figure 3). An examination of the F3 factor
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
scores, however, reveals that the relationship between health, attractiveness, and hormone
markers, is not linear. Although the ‘‘Lover’’ scores initially increase with facial
masculinization, they reach a maximum value and then decline with further masculinization.
This observation suggests that either negative attributes are associated with high levels of
testosterone, or positive attributes are perceived to decline under these conditions; both
hypothesis appear to be true. An examination of Figure 3 reveals that the Enemy factor (F1)
increases and the Friend factor (F2) decreases at high levels of masculinity. Clearly the
women in this study viewed pronounced testosterone facial markers to be associated with
dominance, unfriendliness, and a host of negative traits (threatening, volatile, controlling,
manipulative, coercive, and selfish). The causal relationship between testosterone levels and
these behavioral attributes is still controversial (see review by Mazur & Booth, 1998). If such
relationships are valid, however, then the aesthetic preference of human females can be
viewed as an adaptive compromise between the positive attributes associated with higher than
average testosterone (health cues) and the negative attributes associated with more extreme
The changes in females’ preferences over their menstrual phase provide additional
support for an adaptive model of aesthetic preference. First, of all the preferences that were
examined, only the attractive male face varied as a function of menstrual phase. Second, this
shift in preference occurred under very specific circumstances; during the nine days prior to
ovulation, when conception risk is highest. This is also the menstrual phase when there is a
unique hormonal mix, high estrogen levels accompanied by low progesterone levels. Third,
the overall shift in preference was very specific; a more masculine male face was preferred
when conception risk was high. Taken together, these three observations are strong evidence
for adaptive design. It appears that a female’s attraction to the testosterone markers on a
male’s face may be influenced by her estrogen/progesterone ratio. This suggests that the
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
neural mechanism responsible for generating such positive feelings is sensitive to these
circulating hormone levels. The observation that the preference change is restricted to the
time of high conception risk indicates that the "healthy male’’ preference, discussed above,
may involve genetic factors (e.g. immunocompetence) rather than, or in addition to,
phenotypic healthiness. Indeed, Scheib, Gangestad, & Thornhill (1999) have shown that a
generally accepted measure of genotypic quality across species, fluctuating asymmetries, is
correlated with both attractiveness and a composite index of masculine features that included
the length of the lower jaw and prominent cheek-bones. From this perspective, the positive
feelings evoked by testosterone markers are a fitness enhancing adaptation.
The experimental participants showing the largest menstrual shift in their attractive
male preference were those scoring lowest on androgyny; more specifically, lowest on the
Bem masculinity scale (Bem-M). The observed correlation between Bem-M scores and the
size of the shift suggests that this relationship should be viewed as a continuum rather than a
dichotomy. For the purpose of discussion, however, it is useful to view the behaviors of these
two groups as representing two different reproductive strategies. In contrast to the high Bem-
M group, whose STM and LTM preferences are consistent and relatively stable across their
menstrual cycle, the low BEM-M participants shift their preference toward a more
masculinized male for both STMs, and during the high conception risk phase of their cycle.
That is, the low Bem-M group may be characterized as employing an opportunistic strategy
rather than a stable mate-choice strategy. An opportunistic strategy offers a solution to what
Cashdan (1996) describes as a woman’s conflict between finding a mate who will invest
(LTM) and securing good genes for her offspring (STM); different males are preferred for
different functions. It has been suggested that such mating strategies arise as a function of the
security of attachment to primary caregivers during childhood (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980;
Draper & Harpending, 1982). Girls, for example, who grow up without fathers, are more
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
likely to mature earlier, exhibit ‘‘precocious’’ sexuality, have low self-esteem, and have
difficulty forming long-term relationships (Chisholm, 1993; Jones et al 1972; Moffitt, Caspi
& Belsky, 1992; Surbey, 1990; Draper & Harpending, 1982). Although the current research
findings do not reflect directly on these hypotheses, it is of interest that the ‘‘opportunistic‘‘
females were lower in self-esteem and more sensitive to male dominance cues than those
with a stable mate-choice strategy. Perhaps father-daughter bonding enhances a female’s
self-esteem and reduces her sensitivity to male dominance cues, while a lack of attachment
has the reverse effect. Future research should attempt to further characterize these
‘‘opportunistic’’ females by directly measuring their parental bonding and their performance
on cognitive tasks, such as mental rotations, that could provide a second measure of
‘‘masculinization’’ for comparison with their low Bem-M scores. In this regard, it is
noteworthy that males’ performance on such mental rotation tasks has already been shown to
decline with father absence during childhood (Draper and Harpending , 1982).
In the current study, participants (a) expressed a preference for male faces that were
more masculine than the average, (b) shifted their preference toward a more masculine face
during periods of high conception risk, and in some cases (c) rated very masculine faces as
most desirable for short-term mates. All such preferences and shifts in preference, however,
were toward male faces that were less symmetrical than the average male face. This is
convincing evidence that participants’ choices were strongly influenced by hormone markers,
and symmetry, as a measure of immunocompetence, can not account for these preference
shifts. It is still possible, however, that the facial hormone markers serve as an honest index
of immunocompetence and explain why females are attracted to such features, but there may
be another reason for this preference. This alternative hypothesis arises from an examination
of the specific facial and bodily features that are influenced by testosterone at puberty.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
Boys and girls enter puberty with almost identical proportions of muscle, fat, and bone,
but they exit this critical phase of development as reproductive adults with completely
different body shapes and compositions. During puberty a male’s body undergoes a
pronounced adolescent growth spurt regulated by testosterone and aromatized testosterone, in
the presence of growth hormone (Tanner, 1978; Grumbach, 2000). By the end of puberty,
men have about 1.5 times the skeletal and muscle mass of women, whereas women have
stored twice as much body fat as men (Forbes, 1975). Facial changes parallel these
modifications to a male’s body. On average, men have more pronounced brow ridges,
sunken eyes, and bushier eyebrows set closer to the eyes (Farkas, 1981). Both the nose and
the mouth are wider in the male face, while the lower jaw is both wider and longer than that
of an average female face (Farkas, 1981). All of these male characteristics appear to have
little relevance in today’s world, but they would have been useful during his long ancestral
history as a hunter. The enlarged openings of the mouth and nostrils provide effective
passageways for the rapid transport of air to and from the lungs. This enhanced airflow,
together with the larger vital capacity of his lungs, is necessary for an adequate supply of
oxygen to support the higher metabolic rate and hemoglobin level required for the efficient
use of his larger muscle mass. These attributes are clearly advantageous for a hunting life
style. Less obvious are the adaptations around the eyes. Hunting requires a high degree of
energy expenditure that inevitably entails profuse sweating from the brow and other regions
of the body in order to regulate body temperature. Large bushy eyebrows set close to the eye
on protruding brow ridges provide an effective method for excluding sweat from the eye
sockets as well as offering protection from an overhead sun. Given these considerations, a
female’s preference for a more masculinized male during periods of high conception risk may
reflect an ancestral adaptive strategy for acquiring the genes of a healthy hunter; a direct
benefit to her male offspring.
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
The healthy hunter hypothesis gains additional support from examining the origins of
other human aesthetic preferences. Why does sugar have a pleasant taste, or rotten eggs have
an unpleasant odor, or tissue damage feel unpleasant? These evaluative sensory feelings are
present at birth, but they do not reflect the inherent properties of events in the external world.
That is, hydrogen sulfide gas does not possess an unpleasant odor, rather, it is the human
brain that has evolved to generate an unpleasant sensation for an event that is biologically
dangerous; in this case, contaminated food. Indeed, Johnston (1999) has argued that all
pleasant or unpleasant sensory feelings (and emotions) have evolved as proximate evaluations
of events in the physical (or social) world that consistently posed threats or benefits to gene
survival, in ancestral environments. In some instances, such as the pleasant taste of sugar,
these preferences may have little current value, and may even be maladaptive in the modern
world. Prior to sugar refineries, however, individuals with a sugar preference ate ripe fruit,
the major available source of sugars, and benefited from both a healthy diet and a rich energy
supply for manufacturing ATP. When viewed from this perspective, male facial beauty may
be an evaluative feeling evoked by attributes that were more important in a hunter-gatherer
era than in today’s environment. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend the modern female’s
preference for males with prominent gluteus maximus muscles (buttock muscles), without
considering the ancestral environment when such preferences had clear survival value.
Facial beauty is a positive feeling generated within the brains of men and women, in
response to a complex configuration of visual cues displayed on the faces of males and
females. It now appears that such features and proportions are predominantly the result of
pubertal hormones, and these hormone markers may indicate fitness enhancing attributes that
are, or were, of importance to the opposite sex. It is also apparent that the hormonal state of
viewers, as determined by their sex and/or reproductive status, may modulate the intensity of
the feelings evoked by these hormone markers. When viewed within this framework, facial
Hormones and Facial Attractiveness
beauty is not a trivial matter, but rather, it is the product of the co-evolution of fitness cues
(hormone markers) and feelings (fitness monitors) that have, or had, important reproductive
consequences for both males and females.
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Figure Captions
Figure 1. Schematic diagram of the steps used to produce the facial morph movie. 1.
Simultaneous morphs produce average male and female faces. 2. Faceprints program
produces features and proportions of masculine and feminine faces. 3. Carricatures produce
extreme male and extreme female faces. 4. Three morphs produce movie clips that are
combined into a single movie.
Figure 2. From left to right; the perceived average male face (frame 394) and the attractive
male face when conception risk is low (frame 298), and when conception risk is high (frame
245). The originals were color images.
Figure 3. Third order polynomial curves fitted to the mean factor scores of all three factors
(Enemy, Friend and Lover) over the first 700 frames (masculine images) of the morph movie.
For reference, the positions of the masculine male (MaM) and average male (AvM) are
Figure 4. Mean ratings of faces for desirability as a short-term mate (STM) and a long-term
mate (LTM), for participants who scored high or low on the Bem masculinity scale.
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
F1: Enemy
F2: Friend
F3: Lover
Movie Frames
Mean Factor Scores
0100 200 300 400 500 600 700
Movie Frames
Mean Rating
0100 200 300 400 500 600 700
Movie Frames
Mean Rating
High Bem-M Group Low Bem-M Group
... This means that people seem to show a general preference for the femininity of faces, regardless of whether the faces are male or female (Carrito et al., 2018;Nakamura & Watanabe, 2019). However, other studies have found that people tend to prefer masculine male faces (DeBruine et al., 2006;Johnston et al., 2001;Little et al., 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 2001), as the individuals with masculine male faces are considered to have good genes and better disease resistance and immune response, which are beneficial for reproduction (Kirkpatrick & Ryan, 1991;Phalane et al., 2017;Rantala et al., 2013;Rhodes et al., 2003;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006;Zahavi, 1975). A recent study (Li et al., 2020) has demonstrated that the influence of sexual dimorphism on perceived facial attractiveness also occurs in "self-face" evaluation. ...
... The correlation between the rating scores of the similarity and attractiveness of the morphed male self-face (solid line) and female self-face (dashed line). (Swaddle & Reierson, 2002), and individuals with such faces are regarded as being more violent and callous and less honest and cooperative (Boothroyd et al., 2007;Johnston et al., 2001). This result is further consolidated by the finding that participants can accept a greater extent of feminized changes than masculinized changes; i.e., faces with a higher ratio of feminization is regarded as still being "like" the original faces (i.e., self-face and female other face) compared to those of masculinization, regardless of whether the evaluator was male or female (see also Figure 2). ...
... This pattern was also present in the results of self-faces; i.e., men have a considerable acceptable range of both masculine and feminine transformation (i.e., [Masculine 30% -Feminine 30%]), while women are receptive to more feminized transformation ([Masculine 10% -Feminine 50%]) (see also Figure 4 for details). These results were consistent with the findings of previous studies that people have a certain degree of acceptance of masculine male faces (DeBruine et al., 2006;Johnston et al., 2001;Little et al., 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 2001) and feminine male faces Nakamura & Watanabe, 2019;Perrett et al., 1998;Welling et al., 2008). However, females tend to accept the feminine transformation of their own faces Fraccaro et al., 2010;Nakamura & Watanabe, 2019;Rhodes et al., 2000). ...
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The present study aims to explore the influence of masculine/feminine changes on the attractiveness evaluation of one's own face, and examine the relationship of this attractiveness evaluation and the similarities between masculine/feminine faces and original faces. A picture was taken from each participant and considered as his or her original self-face, and a male or female face with an average attractiveness score was adopted as the original other face. Masculinized and feminized transformations of the original faces (self-face, male other face, and female other face) into 100% masculine and feminine faces were produced with morphing software stepping by 2%. Thirty female participants and 30 male participants were asked to complete three tasks, i.e., to “like” or “not like” the original face judgment of a given face compared to the original face, to choose the most attractive face from a morphed facial clip, and to subjectively evaluate the attractiveness and similarity of morphed faces. The results revealed that the acceptable range of masculine/feminine transformation for self-faces was narrower than that for other faces. Furthermore, the attractiveness ratings for masculinized or femininized self-faces were correlated with the similarity scores of the faces with the original self-faces. These findings suggested that attractiveness enhancement of self-face through masculinity/femininity must be within reasonable extent and take into account the similarity between the modified faces and the original self-face.
... In addition to reporting higher preferences for putative cues to immunocompetence in a mate when seeking shortterm relationships (e.g., Schmitt, 2005), some evidence suggests that women increase their preferences for these men in late-follicular (i.e., fertile) phase of the menstrual cycle (e.g., Gangestad et al., 2007;Jones et al., 2005;Penton-Voak et al., 1999;Welling et al., 2007;reviewed in Welling & Burriss, 2019; but see Jones et al., 2018), with women reporting stronger preferences for men with masculine (Feinberg et al., 2006;Gangestad et al., 2007;Johnston et al., 2001;Jones et al., 2005;Little et al., 2007;Penton-Voak & Perrett, 2000;Penton-Voak et al., 1999;Puts, 2006;Welling et al., 2007) and symmetrical ; see also Gangestad & Thornhill, 1998;Rikowski & Grammer, 1999;Thornhill et al., 2003) traits, and stronger attraction to displays of dominance (Gangestad et al., 2004Lukaszewski & Roney, 2009) near ovulation compared to other times. This shift in preferences may reflect a "mixed mating" strategy (see Gangestad & Thornhill, 2008;Penton-Voak et al., 1999), whereby women with lower quality primary partners may selectively engage in extra-pair copulations with men of higher genetic quality near peak fertility to secure superior genes for their children (Buss, 2003;Gangestad et al., 2000Gangestad et al., , 2007Smith, 1984;Symons, 1979). ...
... This suggests that women may be more inclined to risk pregnancy with dominant men, or perhaps that dominant men may be better able to convince their partners to engage in these risky sexual behaviors, but these possibilities require further investigation. Another possible explanation is that although more masculine and dominant men are perceived by women to be less committed, less prosocial, and more promiscuous (Boothroyd et al., 2007;Johnston et al., 2001;Kruger, 2006;Perrett et al., 1998), pregnancy may function as a way to secure a partner with high genetic quality, such as a dominant or masculine partner (see, e.g., Foo et al., 2020). Consistent with this idea was the finding that-in addition to being more likely to carry an unintended pregnancy to term with their current partner if they take fewer social risks (i.e., wish to avoid social stigmatization; see also, e.g., Hall et al., 2015;Wiemann et al., 2005), are more religious (see also Henshaw & Silverman, 1988), and rated themselves as being less upset should they become pregnant-women were more likely to report that they would carry an unintended pregnancy to term if they rated their partners as higher in masculinity. ...
Full-text available
A great deal of research has focused on women’s attention to the physical and behavioral cues of potential romantic partners. Comparatively little work has investigated how these cues influence women’s sexual risk-taking. The current study investigated the relationship between women’s perceptions of various factors associated with their partner’s genetic or investment quality, and women’s risky sexual behaviors (i.e., behaviors that could lead to unintended pregnancy). This work also investigated the influence of estimated menstrual cycle phase using a between-subject design. Analyses failed to reveal menstrual cycle effects, but women reported a greater tendency to engage in risky sexual behaviors when they had more physically attractive partners and when they use sexual inducements as a mate retention strategy. Also, conception-risking behaviors occurred most often when the woman reported being more socially dominant and she reported being less upset by a potential pregnancy. Moreover, the self-reported likelihood that women would carry an unintended pregnancy to term with their partner was predicted by feeling less upset by a potential pregnancy, taking fewer social risks, religiosity, and by more favorable ratings of their partners’ masculinity. These results are discussed in line with evolutionary theory surrounding mate choice.
... For instance, women prefer more masculine faces when they are fertile (Gangestad et al., 2004;Gildersleeve et al., 2013), when they are already partnered , and when they are focused on short-term mating (Waynforth et al., 2005)-that is, in situations in which they would be expected to prioritize genetic quality over other aspects of a potential mate. It must be noted that some fertility measures appear to lack sufficient accuracy (Blake et al., 2016) and recent studies using superior (hormonal) measures have found no evidence for stronger masculinity preferences in women in the high fertility phase of the menstrual cycle (Dixson et al., 2018a(Dixson et al., , 2018bJones et al., 2018;Marcinkowska et al., 2018) Likewise, women's masculinity ratings of male faces are positively correlated with attractiveness (Johnston et al., 2001;Penton-Voak & Perrett, 2000;Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999;Zuckerman et al., 1995). Yet, this positive correlation is not consistent (DeBruine et al., 2006;Perrett et al., 1998;Swaddle & Reierson, 2002), perhaps because there are multiple costs and benefits communicated by facial masculinity (Marcinkowska et al., 2019). ...
... The multiplicity in the cost and benefits of choosing masculine mates may indicate a trade-off between two female priorities: quality (genetic fitness and health) and parental investment (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000;. For instance, men with more masculine facial features are perceived as possessing higher quality genes (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999) and health (Johnston et al., 2001) and in fact enjoy superior health and strength (Fink et al., 2007;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006; but see Boothroyd et al., 2013). However, more masculine men are also perceived as less reliable investors in offspring and in fact have a greater number of short-term partners (Boothroyd et al., 2008;Perrett et al., 1998). ...
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The present research focused on how environmental harshness may affect heterosexual women's preferences of potential male mates’ facial characteristics, namely masculinity-femininity. The evidence on this issue is mixed and mostly from Western samples. We aimed to provide causal evidence using a sample of Turkish women and Turkish male faces. A video-based manipulation was developed to heighten environmental harshness perceptions. In the main experiment, participants were primed with either resource scarcity, pathogen prevalence, or neither (control). They then saw masculinized versus feminized versions of the same faces and indicated the face they would prefer for a long-term relationship and separately rated the faces on various dimensions. In general, masculinized faces were perceived as slightly more attractive, slightly healthier, and much more formidable. A multilevel Bayesian model showed that pathogen prevalence lowered the preference for masculinized faces while resource scarcity weakly elevated it. The overall drop of attractiveness ratings in cases of high perceived pathogen prevalence, one of the strongest effects we observed, suggests that during epidemics, formation of new relationships is not a favourable strategy. Implications for evolutionary theories of mate preference are discussed.
... These include things like social dominance and assertiveness (Gangestad et al., 2004;see, Graziano et al., 1997 for review) A second line of suggestive research addresses changes in female mate preferences during fertile phases of the menstrual cycle: i.e., when they are more sexually receptive (Gangestad & Haselton, 2015). Several studies have indicated that women tend to prefer more "masculine" traits when fertile: such as deeper voices (Feinberg et al., 2006;Puts, 2005), competitive intrasexual behavior (Graziano et al., 1997) more masculine facial brow and jaw structure (Johnston et al., 2001;Penton-Voak & Perrett, 2000) and greater height (Pawlowski & Jasienska, 2005). ...
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Misperception of others’ sexual willingness or consent is widely considered to contribute to sexual coercion. Sexual arousal is commonly present among those in situations with potential to result in sexual assault. The current research tests the effects of sexual arousal on related attitudes: including those toward token resistance, assertive sexual strategies, and affirmative consent. Sexual arousal was primed through a narrative writing paradigm. Results indicate sexual arousal led all participants to be more likely to endorse belief in female token resistance, and led women to more strongly endorse men’s assertive sexual strategies. Implications for research on sexual consent are discussed.
... There is evidence suggesting that moderate levels of masculinity might be associated with increased reproductive success (see e.g. Boothroyd et al., 2017, for offspring survival rates) and perceived attractiveness (Frederick and Haselton, 2007;Johnston et al., 2001, but see also Sell et al., 2017), with a decrease for both very low and very high levels of masculinity. Indeed, some of these authors have argued that masculinity may be under stabilizing, rather than directional, selection in humans. ...
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Humans are sexually dimorphic: men and women differ in body build and composition, craniofacial structure, and voice pitch, likely mediated in part by developmental testosterone. Sexual selection hypotheses posit that, ancestrally, more 'masculine' men may have acquired more mates and/or sired more viable offspring. Thus far, however, evidence for either association is unclear. Here, we meta-analyze the relationships between six masculine traits and mating/reproductive outcomes (96 studies, 474 effects, N = 177,044). Voice pitch, height, and testosterone all predicted mating; however, strength/muscularity was the strongest and only consistent predictor of both mating and reproduction. Facial masculinity and digit ratios did not significantly predict either. There was no clear evidence for any effects of masculinity on offspring viability. Our findings support arguments that strength/muscularity may be sexually selected in humans, but cast doubt regarding selection for other forms of masculinity and highlight the need to increase tests of evolutionary hypotheses outside of industrialized populations.
... Why does the human perceptual system evaluate some targets as being more attractive than others? Although the answer to this question is undoubtedly complex, involving features that are age- [1], sex- [2], culture- [3], and personspecific [4,5], sexual selection theory suggests that perceptions of attractiveness should reflect a preference for traits that have historically been linked to their possessor's quality as a mate, including health and immune function (e.g. [6,7]). ...
It has long been hypothesized that attractiveness provides a cue to a target's health and immunocompetence. However, much of the research testing this hypothesis has relied on a small number of indirect proxies of immune function, and the results of this research have been mixed. Here, we build on this past research, examining the relationship between target attractiveness and (i) self-reported health, (ii) in vivo measures of inflammation and white blood cell count/composition, and (iii) in vitro tests of targets' immune function, including (c1) leucocyte proliferation in response to immunological stimulants, (c2) phagocytosis of Escherichia coli bioparticles, (c3) NK cell-mediated lysis of target tumour cells, and (c4) Staphylococcus aureus growth in isolated plasma. Results revealed multiple, sometimes sex-differentiated, relationships between targets' immune function and others’ perceptions of their attractiveness. Together, this work suggests complex, often sex-differentiated relationships between immune function, health, and attractiveness.
... Recent research, however, shows that this holds only in part. Interactions with the sex of the trait bearer, trait perceiver, hormonal status, health status, environment, and other variables must also be taken into account [34][35][36][37][38]. This study, though, does not aim at disentangling the complex dynamics of the abovementioned fitness indicators and their relation to biological quality. ...
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Facial symmetry, averageness, and the level of sex-typical development of dimorphic traits are traditionally associated with various biological quality indicators and should be, therefore, preferred in mate choice. The aim of this study is to propose a concept of morphological uniqueness and uncover its possible associations to putative phenotypic cues of biological quality. In contrast to typicality expressed by averageness, morphological uniqueness quantifies the degree of possessing characteristics unique to particular groups. I employed a combination of geometric morphometric and Bayesian multiple regression to analyze 300 Cameroonian faces, while an additional 1153 faces from eight distinct populations from across four continents were used as a reference sample of the global population to calculate the morphological uniqueness of Cameroonians. I found that morphological uniqueness is positively associated with a feminine facial shape in women and negatively with morphological masculinity in men. Facial symmetry was positively associated with female faces with greater levels of uniqueness; the result for male faces was inconclusive. The faces of both sexes perceived as more attractive had lower levels of morphological uniqueness. Facial distinctiveness showed no relationship to morphological uniqueness in either sex, which indicates that morphological uniqueness and distinctiveness are two complementary approaches to studying facial typicality. In the conclusion, the evolutionary significance of the proposed concept and its potential applicability is discussed.
... As far as we know, the only research studying the possible influence of the personality characteristics of women on the preference of the dominant face of the man was executed by Johnston et al. (2001). The psychological level of masculinity has the potential to influence the preference for masculine/feminine male face. ...
Conference Paper
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Hariz Halilovich, 2018, ‘Pedagogies of Place and Peace: Experiential and Reflexive Learning in Post-conflict Context’, in M. Mulalić, N. Obralić, A. Mulalić & E. Jelešković (eds) Education, Culture Identity: The Future of Humanities, Education and Creative Industries. Sarajevo: IUS, pp. 70-92.
Facial beauty has a fundamental impact on our lives from an early age. The definition of beauty and what makes a face attractive are topics that have been debated since inception and have kept the interest of scholars, professions, and laypersons. Studies on beauty and attractiveness are diverse and date back centuries. Ongoing research and recent publications examine various components of beauty including symmetry, averageness, facial proportions, and sexual dimorphism. Evidence of preferences in early development, inherent natural tendency towards beauty, and cross-cultural agreement on attractiveness have been published. Neoclassical canons, primarily introduced by Ancient Greeks and the Renaissance, have been used to describe facial morphological features. Although deep rooted in art and philosophy, these are not valid for all populations and ethnicities. Interethnic variability in facial dimensions exists. Evaluation and assessment of facial features and aesthetics is crucial prior to treatment planning in the field of aesthetics, dentofacial treatments (prosthodontic, orthodontics, maxillofacial, and orthognatic surgery), and plastic facial reconstructive surgery. This chapter explores studies on facial beauty and discusses cultural variations in the standards of beauty. The ideals of beauty shift throughout times and cultures. With globalisation, access to international media and connections, these ideals are becoming more inclusive. However, cultural variations still exist. The general principles of beauty and aesthetic enhancement appear to be universal with similar aesthetic goals that are modestly influenced by culture, environment, and media.
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The consistency of physical attractiveness ratings across cultural groups was examined. In Study 1, recently arrived native Asian and Hispanic students and White Americans rated the attractiveness of Asian, Hispanic, Black, and White photographed women. The mean correlation between groups in attractiveness ratings was r = .93. Asians, Hispanics, and Whites were equally influenced by many facial features, but Asians were less influenced by some sexual maturity and expressive features. In Study 2, Taiwanese attractiveness ratings correlated with prior Asian, Hispanic, and American ratings, mean r = .91. Supporting Study 1, the Taiwanese also were less positively influenced by certain sexual maturity and expressive features. Exposure to Western media did not influence attractiveness ratings in either study. In Study 3, Black and White American men rated the attractiveness of Black female facial photos and body types. Mean facial attractiveness ratings were highly correlated ( r = .94), but as predicted Blacks and Whites varied in judging bodies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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It is hypothesized that human faces judged to be attractive by people possess two features-averageness and symmetry-that promoted adaptive mate selection in human evolutionary history by way of production of offspring with parasite resistance. Facial composites made by combining individual faces are judged to be attractive, and more attractive than the majority of individual faces. The composites possess both symmetry and averageness of features. Facial averageness may reflect high individual protein heterozygosity and thus an array of proteins to which parasites must adapt. Heterozygosity may be an important defense of long-lived hosts against parasites when it occurs in portions of the genome that do not code for the essential features of complex adaptations. In this case heterozygosity can create a hostile microenvironment for parasites without disrupting adaptation. Facial bilateral symmetry is hypothesized to affect positive beauty judgments because symmetry is a certification of overall phenotypic quality and developmental health, which may be importantly influenced by parasites. Certain secondary sexual traits are influenced by testosterone, a hormone that reduces immunocompetence. Symmetry and size of the secondary sexual traits of the face (e.g., cheek bones) are expected to correlate positively and advertise immunocompetence honestly and therefore to affect positive beauty judgments. Facial attractiveness is predicted to correlate with attractive, nonfacial secondary sexual traits; other predictions from the view that parasite-driven selection led to the evolution of psychological adaptations of human beauty perception are discussed. The view that human physical attractiveness and judgments about human physical attractiveness evolved in the context of parasite-driven selection leads to the hypothesis that both adults and children have a species-typical adaptation to the problem of identifying and favoring healthy individuals and avoiding parasite-susceptible individuals. It is proposed that this adaptation guides human decisions about nepotism and reciprocity in relation to physical attractiveness.
This report presents evidence that sexual selection may favor developmental stability (i e, the absence of fluctuating asymmetry) in humans Subtle, heritable asymmetries in seven nonfacial human body traits correlated negatively with number of self-reported, lifetime sex partners and correlated positively with self-reported age at first copulation in a college student sample These relationships remained statistically significant when age, marital status, body height, ethnicity, physical anomalies associated with early prenatal development, and physical attractiveness were statistically controlled The strength of the relationships did not differ significantly as a function of sex It is unlikely that the relationships are generated by false self-reporting of sexual experience