Here we show that women's preferences for femininity (vs. masculinity) in men's faces are decreased after viewing a slideshow of images of highly attractive men, but not after viewing a slideshow of relatively unattractive men. As masculinity is thought to be a cue of men's heritable fitness, and viewing images of highly attractive opposite-sex individuals increases sexual motivation, this may indicate that women increase their preferences for male cues of heritable fitness in circumstances where mating is likely to occur. This context-sensitivity in women's face preferences may, therefore, be adaptive, since decreased preferences for feminine men (i.e. increased preferences for masculine men) when sexual motivation is enhanced may increase offspring viability. Interestingly, we found that viewing images of highly attractive men also decreased women's preferences for femininity in female faces. This latter finding could either reflect increased derogation of attractive (i.e. feminine) same-sex competitors when sexual motivation is enhanced or be a low-cost functionless by-product of a mechanism for increasing preferences for cues of men's heritable fitness when sexual motivation is high. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that recent visual experience with highly attractive opposite-sex individuals influences attractiveness judgments and present novel evidence for potentially adaptive context-sensitivity in attractiveness judgments.
Previous studies have demonstrated that men prefer women's voices with relatively high pitch to those with low pitch, suggesting that men may use voice pitch as a cue of women's mate quality. However, evidence that voice pitch is a cue to women's long-term health is equivocal. Here we present evidence that women's average speaking voice pitch is negatively correlated with a health risk index derived from principle component analysis of various body measurements that are known to predict long-term health outcomes in women (weight, body mass index, percentage body fat, waist and hip circumference, and waist-hip ratio). Our results suggest that voice pitch is a cue to women's long-term health, supporting mate-choice accounts of men's preferences for raised pitch in women's voices.
Although humans can raise and lower their voice pitch, it is not known whether such alterations can function to increase the likelihood of attracting preferred mates. Because men find higher-pitched women's voices more attractive, the voice pitch with which women speak to men may depend on the strength of their attraction to those men. Here, we measured voice pitch when women left voicemail messages for masculinized and feminized versions of a prototypical male face. We found that the difference in women's voice pitch between these two conditions positively correlated with the strength of their preference for masculinized versus feminized male faces, whereby women tended to speak with a higher voice pitch to the type of face they found more attractive (masculine or feminine). Speaking with a higher voice pitch when talking to the type of man they find most attractive may function to reduce the amount of mating effort that women expend in order to attract and retain preferred mates.