CD Watkins, LM DeBruine, AC Little, DR Feinberg, PJ Fraccaro & BC Jones (2011). Perceptions of partner femininity predict individual differences in men's sensitivity to facial cues of male dominance. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 9(1): 69-82. doi: 10.1556/JEP.9.2011.10.1

Recent research suggests that men may possess adaptations that evolved to counter strategic variation in womenís preferences for masculine men. For example, womenís preferences for masculine, dominant men are stronger during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle than at other times and men demonstrate increased sensitivity to facial cues of male dominance when their partners are ovulating. Such variation in menís dominance perceptions may promote efficient allocation of menís mate guarding effort (i.e., allocate more mate guarding effort in response to masculine, dominant men in situations where women show particularly strong preferences for such men). Here, we tested for further evidence of adaptations that may have evolved to counter strategic variation in womenís masculinity preferences. Men who reported having particularly feminine romantic partners demonstrated a greater tendency to attribute dominance to masculinized male faces than did men who reported having relatively masculine romantic partners. This relationship between partner femininity and menís sensitivity to facial cues of male dominance remained significant when we controlled for potential confounds (menís age, self-rated masculinity, reported commitment to their relationship, and the length of the relationship) and may be adaptive given that feminine women demonstrate particularly strong preferences for masculine, dominant men. While previous research has emphasized variation in womenís masculinity preferences, our findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that sexual selection may also have shaped adaptations that evolved to counter such systematic variation in womenís preferences for masculine, dominant men.

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