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Abstract

In many animals red is a signal of dominance and in humans there is evidence that red colouration may provide an advantage in sporting competition. This has been disputed by findings showing that colours other than red can also provide a competitive advantage. Here we examine basic perception of red versus blue in simple shapes by human judges to address the social signalling properties of red. We show that red is seen as more likely to win in physical competitions, more aggressive and more dominant then blue. When hue information is removed, however, the darker contrast of the blue shapes leads to a reversal in the attributions. This confirms that red hue is special in social attribution consistent with it being a signal of competitive quality and that darker contrast, through a potential link to testosterone signalling, could also act as a signal of dominance.

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Abstract

Although Duchenne smiles have been shown to have a social signal value, there is limited evidence as to whether this effect generalises to most positive attributes, or whether it is restricted to a particular social domain. As opposed to non-Duchenne smiles, Duchenne smiles involve the activity of facial muscles in the eye region (orbicularis oculi). The hypothesis that Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles produce different responses in receivers was tested in a face perception experiment. People were asked to rate neutral and smiling faces on ten attributes: attractiveness, generosity, trustworthiness, competitiveness, health, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. Results showed that the type of smile had a stronger impact on the ratings of generosity and extroversion. The difference between neutral and smiling was larger when faces showed a Duchenne than a non-Duchenne smile, though the effect of smile type on attributions of generosity appeared to be restricted to male faces. Therefore the Duchenne marker shows some specificity to judgements of altruism and sociability.

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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology
Authors: Lisa L. M. Welling, Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. Debruine, Anthony C. Little, and Finlay G. Smith

Abstract

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.

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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology
Authors: Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. Debruine, Anthony C. Little, and David R. Feinberg

Abstract

Although it is well-established that generalized face preferences influence a wide range of social outcomes, little is known about the proximate mechanisms through which such preferences develop. In two experiments we show that preferences for composites of faces that had been seen paired with an aversive auditory stimulus were significantly weaker than preferences for composites of faces that had been seen paired with a relatively neutral auditory stimulus, demonstrating that the valence of participants’ experiences with individual faces influences preferences for novel, physically similar faces. While previous findings for experience with faces on subsequent preferences have emphasized the positive effects of familiarity on attraction to novel, physically similar faces, here we emphasize the effects of the valence of peoples’ experiences and show that negative experiences can decrease preferences for familiar configurations of facial cues.

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Abstract

Adolescents have been found to differ by age in their attraction to facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism. However, it has not been demonstrated that attraction to these facial characters changes over time as a consequence of age-linked development. We aimed to extend previous cross-sectional findings by examining whether facial attractiveness judgments change over time during adolescence as a consequence of increasing age, in a within-subjects study of two cohorts of adolescents aged 11–16. Consistent with previous findings, we find that adolescents (often particularly females) judged faces with increased averageness, symmetry and femininity to be more attractive than original, asymmetric and masculine faces, respectively. However, we do not find longitudinal changes in face preference judgments across the course of a year, leading us to question the extent to which some of the previously reported differences in facial attractiveness judgments between younger and older adolescents were due to age-linked changes.

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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology
Authors: Christopher D. Watkins, Lisa M. Debruine, Anthony C. Little, David R. Feinberg, Paul J. Fraccaro, and Benedict C. Jones

Abstract

Recent research suggests that men may possess adaptations that evolved to counter strategic variation in women's preferences for masculine men. For example, women's preferences for masculine, dominant men are stronger during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle than at other times and men demonstrate increased sensitivity to facial cues of male dominance when their partners are ovulating. Such variation in men's dominance perceptions may promote efficient allocation of men's mate guarding effort (i.e., allocate more mate guarding effort in response to masculine, dominant men in situations where women show particularly strong preferences for such men). Here, we tested for further evidence of adaptations that may have evolved to counter strategic variation in women's masculinity preferences. Men who reported having particularly feminine romantic partners demonstrated a greater tendency to attribute dominance to masculinized male faces than did men who reported having relatively masculine romantic partners. This relationship between partner femininity and men's sensitivity to facial cues of male dominance remained significant when we controlled for potential confounds (men's age, self-rated masculinity, reported commitment to their relationship, and the length of the relationship) and may be adaptive given that feminine women demonstrate particularly strong preferences for masculine, dominant men. While previous research has emphasized variation in women's masculinity preferences, our findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that sexual selection may also have shaped adaptations that evolved to counter such systematic variation in women's preferences for masculine, dominant men.

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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology
Authors: Paul J. Fraccaro, Benedict C. Jones, Jovana Vukovic, Finlay G. Smith, Christopher D. Watkins, David R. Feinberg, Anthony C. Little, and Lisa M. Debruine

Abstract

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.

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