Watkins CD, DeBruine LM, Little AC, Feinberg DR & Jones BC (2012). Priming concerns about pathogen threat versus resource scarcity: Dissociable effects on womenís perceptions of menís attractiveness and dominance. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(12): 1549-1556.

Previous experimental work suggests flexibility in womenís mate preferences that appears to reflect the advantages of choosing healthy mates under conditions of pathogen threat and of choosing prosocial mates under conditions of resource scarcity. Following this work, we used an established priming paradigm to examine the effects of priming womenís concerns about pathogen threat versus resource scarcity on their judgments of menís facial attractiveness and dominance. We found that women reported stronger attraction to masculine men when their concerns about pathogens were activated than when their concerns about resource scarcity were activated. In contrast, we found that women were more likely to ascribe high dominance to masculine men when their concerns about resource scarcity were activated than when their concerns about pathogens were activated. This latter result may reflect the greater importance of identifying men who pose a substantial threat to womenís resources and personal safety when resources are scarce and violence towards women is particularly common. Together, these findings suggest a double dissociation between the effects of pathogen threat and resource scarcity on womenís perceptions of the attractiveness and dominance of masculine men, potentially revealing considerably greater specialization (i.e., context-specificity) in the effects of environmental threats on womenís perceptions of men than was apparent in previous research.

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