MJ Law Smith, MR Stirrat, V Coetzee, BC Jones, RE Cornwell, DR Feinberg, S Whiten, RM Pitman, SG Hillier, A Rankin, J Greeff, SP Henzi, M Sharp & EAS Al-Dujaili (2006). Reproductive hormones, apparent health and human face color. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Philadelphia, PA USA. June 2006.

Coloration is sexually selected in many animal species. Redness of primate sexual skin relates to estrogen in females and testosterone in males and signals sexual status and rank. We investigated if human skin color along red-green and blue-yellow axes (reflecting haemoglobin and melanin, respectively) relates to health attributions and hormonal status. For young Caucasian men and women, red and yellow face color correlated with apparent health. Testosterone in men and estrogen metabolite in women correlated with redness of facial skin. Color was a sufficient cue to apparent health when participants manipulated face images along red-green axes; using more red to enhance faces originally low in red. These associations were present for Caucasian and non-Caucasian faces (including black African males), and generalized to black African (RSA) and white observers (UK/Australia). Face color provides cues to reproductive health in humans, and the attribution of health to color variation can surpass cultural differences.

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