Smith FG, Jones BC, DeBruine LM & Little AC (2009). Interactions between masculinity-femininity and apparent health in face preferences. Behavioral Ecology, 20(2): 441-445. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arn141

Consistent with Getty's (2002) proposal that cues to long-term health and cues to current condition are at least partly independent, recent research on human face preferences has found divergent effects of masculinity-femininity, a cue to long-term health, and apparent health, a cue to current condition. In light of this, we tested for interactions between these two cues. Participants viewed composite images of opposite-sex faces that had been manufactured in combinations of high and low apparent health and masculinity-femininity. Preferences for masculinity in men's faces and femininity in women's faces were stronger when judging the attractiveness of faces with high apparent health than when judging the attractiveness of faces with low apparent health. Similarly, preferences for high apparent health were stronger for judgments of masculine men's faces and feminine women's faces than for judgments of feminine men's faces and masculine women's faces, respectively. Interactions between apparent health and masculinity-femininity when forming face preferences may function to optimize how masculinity-femininity and apparent health are used to infer the quality of potential mates and highlight the complexity and sophistication of the perceptual mechanisms that underpin face preferences.

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