Whether experimentally assessed face preferences predict actual mate choices is a contentious issue and evidence to date has been mixed. However, people’s own attractiveness may moderate the link between their preference and choice if individuals with higher market value are better able to obtain mates with characteristics that they prefer. We tested this hypothesis in a sample of real couples by investigating the interrelationships among (1) participants’ preferences for colour and texture cues associated with perceived health in opposite-sex faces, (2) their own facial attractiveness and (3) the perceived health of their partners’ facial appearance. Own facial attractiveness and partner facial health were both assessed from independent ratings. As predicted, multilevel modelling showed that the relationship between health preference and partner facial health was indeed moderated by own attractiveness; partner facial health predicted health preference better in more attractive individuals. These results suggest the existence of systematic individual differences in the relationship between face preference and mate choice.
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