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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.