Sexually dimorphic characteristics in men may act as cues, advertising long-term health, dominance, and reproductive potential to prospective mates. Evolution has accordingly adapted human cognition so that women perceive sexually dimorphic facial features as important when judging the attractiveness and suitability of potential mates. Here we provide evidence showing, for the first time, that women's memory for details encountered in recently experienced episodes is also systematically biased by the presence of men's facial cues signaling enhanced or reduced sexual dimorphism. Importantly, the direction and strength of this bias are predicted by individual differences in women's preferences for masculine versus feminine facial features in men and are triggered specifically while viewing images of male but not female faces. No analogous effects were observed in male participants viewing images of feminized and masculinized women's faces despite the fact that male participants showed strong preferences for feminized facial features. These findings reveal a preference-dependent memory enhancement in women that would promote retention of information from encounters with preferred potential mates. We propose that women's memory for recently experienced episodes may therefore be functionally specialized for mate choice and in particular for the comparative evaluation of alternative potential mates. This also raises the possibility that similar specialization may be present in other species where it has been established that precursor, ‘episodic-like’ forms of memory exist.
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