Male facial attractiveness: Perceived personality and shifting female preferences for male traits across the menstrual cycle

IS Penton-Voak, DI Perrett

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

68 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

On the evidence of experimental studies, female preferences for even static images of male faces represent a complex set of decision-making processes, and the differing techniques employed by different researchers often generate conflicting results. The findings reported by Perrett et al. (1998) indicate that women do not have clear preferences for masculinized (high testosterone) face shapes as predicted by indicator models of sexual selection, and some other studies of male faces (e.g., Grammer and Thornhill, 1994). Stereotypical personality judgments attributed to static faces appear to influence attractiveness judgments. Masculinized faces (indicating high levels of androgens) are considered to possess fewer desirable personality traits than feminized faces. These attributions may have some validity, and a reasonable (although, as yet unsupported) biological model linking androgen levels, behavior, and facial shape fits in with the observed preference pattern and, apparently, the fossil record: an overall preference for relatively low-testosterone men may be a somewhat unexpected adaptation. Biological facial characteristics that are considered putative indicators of good genes are not, however, ignored. They appear to be appraised in the light of stereotypical personality judgments and in the context of personal life-history factors (such as the type of relationship sought and possibly the relationship status of the woman). Furthermore, preferences are mediated and interact with cyclic hormonal changes linked to the likelihood of conception following sex. Relative masculinity in faces seems to be preferred at times when conception is most likely, paralleling other researchers' work in the olfactory modality. These preferences have been found in two cultures (United Kingdom and Japan), with student-aged and older women, and with multiple stimulus sets. Cyclic preferences for male face shapes are consistent with other reported cyclic preferences for male odor. If preference data are reliably linked to actual sexual behavior (a question that should be addressed by future research), a model linking likelihood of parental investment and facial masculinity preferred by females is suggested: when parental investment is sought (i.e., for a long-term relationship) facial shapes associated with relatively lower testosterone levels are preferred. Such faces may reliably indicate prosocial personality characteristics. When, however, likelihood of parental investment is low (in short-term relationships or possibly extra-pair copulations when the likelihood of conception is high) relatively more masculine faces are preferred, in a fashion more consistent with 'good genes' hypotheses.
Translated title of the contributionMale facial attractiveness: Perceived personality and shifting female preferences for male traits across the menstrual cycle
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219 - 259
Number of pages41
JournalAdvances in the Study of Behavior
Volume30
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier
Other: ISBN: 0120045303 / 9780120045303

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