Feinberg DR, DeBruine LM, Jones BC, Little AC, O'Connor JJM & Tigue CC (2012). Women’s self-perceptions of health and attractiveness predict male vocal masculinity preferences in different directions across short- and long-term relationship contexts. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(3): 413-418. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1287-y

Research has revealed that women’s self-perceived attractiveness positively predicts preferences for male facial and vocal masculinity, particularly in the context of long-term relationships. Other research has demonstrated that women who may be less healthy prefer male masculinity more than do women who may be healthier. As self-perceived health may predict self-perceived attractiveness, previous findings may appear to be contradictory. Therefore, we compared the effects of self-perceived attractiveness and self-perceived health on vocal masculinity preferences in long- and short-term relationship contexts. We found that although self-perceived health and attractiveness were positively correlated, self-rated attractiveness positively predicted long-term vocal masculinity preferences, whereas self-rated health negatively predicted short-term vocal masculinity preferences. While health and attractiveness may share a common basis, here we show independent potentially adaptive relationships with preferences based on relationship context. Such preferences are potentially adaptive as (a) masculine men may pass on inheritable immunity to infection to their offspring, which may be a relatively greater benefit for women in poor health; and (b) masculine men may be more likely to invest in relationships and offspring of relatively attractive women, decreasing the cost of choosing a masculine long-term partner for attractive women. These data resolve a potential conflict between health and attractiveness influences on the attractiveness of masculinity and highlight sophisticated individual differences in preferences.

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