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  • Author or Editor: C. A. Conway x
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Abstract

People who are particularly vulnerable to disease may reduce their likelihood of contracting illnesses during social interactions by having particularly strong aversions to individuals who appear ill. Consistent with this proposal, here we show that men and women who perceive themselves to be particularly vulnerable to disease have stronger preferences for apparent health in dynamic faces than individuals who perceive themselves to be relatively less vulnerable to disease. This relationship was independent of possible effects of general disgust sensitivity. Furthermore, perceived vulnerability to disease was not related to preferences for other facial cues that are attractive but do not necessarily signal an individual's current health (i.e. perceiver-directed smiles). Our findings complement previous studies implicating perceived vulnerability to disease in attitudes to out-group individuals and those with physical abnormalities by implicating perceived vulnerability to disease as a factor in face preferences. Collectively, our findings reveal a relatively domain-specific association between perceived vulnerability to disease and the strength of aversions to facial cues associated with illness. Additionally, they are further evidence that variation in attractiveness judgments is not arbitrary, but rather reflects potentially adaptive individual differences in face preferences.

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Abstract

Women demonstrate stronger preferences for femininity when assessing men's attractiveness for long-term rather than short-term relationships. One explanation of this effect is that the pro-social traits associated with femininity are particularly important for long-term relationships. This explanation has recently been challenged, however, following null findings for effects of pro-social attributions on women's preferences for feminine long-term partners. A limitation of these latter analyses is that they did not consider hormonal contraceptive use, which is a factor that previous studies suggest affects mate preferences. In our study, we found that women not using hormonal contraceptives demonstrated stronger preferences for femininity in men's faces when assessing men as long-term partners than when assessing men as short-term partners. Moreover, this effect was most pronounced among women who perceived feminine men as particularly trustworthy. No equivalent effects were observed among women using hormonal contraceptives. These findings support the proposal that the effect of relationship context on women's face preferences occurs, at least in part, because women value pro-social traits more in long-term than short-term partners. Additionally, our findings suggest that both hormonal contraceptive use and individual differences in perceptions of pro-social traits modulate the effect of relationship context on women's face preferences.

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