While many studies of face preferences have emphasized high agreement among individuals about the types of faces they consider attractive and unattractive, other studies have demonstrated systematic variation in face preferences. Here we review the evidence that women's preferences for masculinity, apparent health and self-resemblance in faces change systematically during the menstrual cycle. Our review focuses on the proximate mechanisms that might underpin these changes (i.e. what changes in hormone levels are important for effects of menstrual cycle phase) and the possible functions of these changes (i.e. to maximise the likelihood that offspring inherit strong immune systems or to increase the likelihood of successful pregnancy by either promoting affiliation with individuals who will provide support and care during pregnancy or by promoting strategies to avoid contagion during social interactions). While evidence that differentiates between these two accounts of the function of cyclic shifts in face preferences is currently equivocal for masculinity preferences, there is compelling evidence that the function of the effects of menstrual cycle phase on preferences for apparent health and self-resemblance in faces is to increase the likelihood of successful pregnancy.
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