FG Smith, BC Jones, AC Little, LM DeBruine, LLM Welling, J Vukovic & CA Conway (2008). Individual differences in the effect of relationship context on women's preferences for sexual dimorphism in male face shape. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Kyoto University, Japan. June 2008.

Women demonstrate stronger preferences for femininity when assessing men’s attractiveness for long-term 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. Other researchers have suggested that stronger masculinity preferences for short-term contexts occur simply because masculine men are easier to classify as ‘male’. We investigated these two proposals, finding that women not using hormonal contraceptives demonstrated stronger preferences for feminine men as long-term partners than as short-term partners and that this effect was most pronounced among women who perceived feminine men as particularly trustworthy. Consistent with previous studies, no equivalent effects were observed in a sample of women reporting hormonal contraceptive use. These findings support the proposal that the effect of relationship context on women’s masculinity preferences occurs, at least in part, because women value pro-social traits more in long-term than short-term partners.

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