Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel

Article


Scott, Isabel M., Clark, Andrew P., Josephson, Steven C., Boyette, Adam H., Cuthill, Innes C., Fried, Ruby L., Gibson, Mhairi A., Hewlett, Barry S., Jamieson, M., Jankowiak, William, Honey, P. Lynne, Huang, Zejun, Liebert, Melissa A., Purzycki, Benjamin G., Shaver, John H., Snodgrass, J. Josh, Sosis, Richard, Sugiyama, Lawrence S., Swami, Viren, Yu, Douglas W., Zhao, Yangke and Penton-Voak, Ian S. 2014. Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (40), pp. 14388-14393.
AuthorsScott, Isabel M., Clark, Andrew P., Josephson, Steven C., Boyette, Adam H., Cuthill, Innes C., Fried, Ruby L., Gibson, Mhairi A., Hewlett, Barry S., Jamieson, M., Jankowiak, William, Honey, P. Lynne, Huang, Zejun, Liebert, Melissa A., Purzycki, Benjamin G., Shaver, John H., Snodgrass, J. Josh, Sosis, Richard, Sugiyama, Lawrence S., Swami, Viren, Yu, Douglas W., Zhao, Yangke and Penton-Voak, Ian S.
Abstract

A large literature proposes that preferences for exaggerated sex typicality in human faces (masculinity/femininity) reflect a long evolutionary history of sexual and social selection. This proposal implies that dimorphism was important to judgments of attractiveness and personality in ancestral environments. It is difficult to evaluate, however, because most available data come from large-scale, industrialized, urban populations. Here, we report the results for 12 populations with very diverse levels of economic development. Surprisingly, preferences for exaggerated sex-specific traits are only found in the novel, highly developed environments. Similarly, perceptions that masculine males look aggressive increase strongly with development and, specifically, urbanization. These data challenge the hypothesis that facial dimorphism was an important ancestral signal of heritable mate value. One possibility is that highly developed environments provide novel opportunities to discern relationships between facial traits and behavior by exposing individuals to large numbers of unfamiliar faces, revealing patterns too subtle to detect with smaller samples.

Keywordsfacial attractiveness; evolution; cross-cultural; aggression; stereotyping
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Journal citation111 (40), pp. 14388-14393
ISSN0027-8424
Year2014
PublisherNational Academy of Sciences
Publisher's version
License
CC BY
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1073/pnas.1409643111
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1409643111
Publication dates
Print22 Sep 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Jun 2017
Accepted19 Aug 2014
FunderThe Leverhulme Trust
University of Bristol
The Leverhulme Trust
University of Bristol
Copyright information© 2014 The authors.
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