Effects of sexual dimorphism on facial attractiveness

Perrett D.I., Lee K. J., PentonVoak I., Rowland D., Yoshikawa S., Burt D.M., Henzi S.P., Castles D.L., Akamatsu S. (1998)

Nature, Vol.394, No.6696, pp.884-887


Testosterone-dependent secondary sexual characteristics in males may signal immunological competence and are sexually selected for in several species. In humans, oestrogen-dependent characteristics of the female body correlate with health and reproductive fitness and are found attractive. Enhancing the sexual dimorphism of human faces should raise am-activeness by enhancing sex-hormone-related cues to youth and fertility in females, and to dominance and immunocompetence in males. Here we report the results of asking subjects to choose the most attractive faces from continua that enhanced or diminished differences between the average shape of female and male faces. As predicted, subjects preferred feminized ta, average shapes of a female face. This preference applied across UK and Japanese populations but was stronger for within-population judgements, which indicates that attractiveness cues are learned. Subjects preferred feminized to average or masculinized shapes of a male face. Enhancing masculine facial characteristics increased both perceived dominance and negative attributions (for example, coldness or dishonesty) relevant to relationships and paternal investment. These results indicate a selection pressure that limits sexual dimorphism and encourages neoteny in humans.

Perception lab. School of Psychology