Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel

Isabel M Scott, Andrew P Clark, Steven C Josephson, Adam H Boyette, Innes C Cuthill, Ruby L Fried, Mhairi A Gibson, Barry S Hewlett, Mark Jamieson, William Jankowiak, P Lynne Honey, Zejun Huang, Melissa A Liebert, Benjamin G Purzycki, John H Shaver, J Josh Snodgrass, Richard Sosis, Lawrence S Sugiyama, Viren Swami, Douglas W YuYangke Zhao, Ian S Penton-Voak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A large literature proposes that preferences for exaggerated sex typicality in human faces (masculinity/femininity) reflect a long evolutionary history of sexual and social selection. This proposal implies that dimorphism was important to judgments of attractiveness and personality in ancestral environments. It is difficult to evaluate, however, because most available data come from large-scale, industrialized, urban populations. Here, we report the results for 12 populations with very diverse levels of economic development. Surprisingly, preferences for exaggerated sex-specific traits are only found in the novel, highly developed environments. Similarly, perceptions that masculine males look aggressive increase strongly with development and, specifically, urbanization. These data challenge the hypothesis that facial dimorphism was an important ancestral signal of heritable mate value. One possibility is that highly developed environments provide novel opportunities to discern relationships between facial traits and behavior by exposing individuals to large numbers of unfamiliar faces, revealing patterns too subtle to detect with smaller samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14388-93
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2014

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition

Keywords

  • Adult
  • Beauty
  • Biological Evolution
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Male
  • Masculinity
  • Personality
  • Regression Analysis
  • Visual Perception

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