Evidence from cross-cultural, correlational and experimental research suggests that ecological factors can influence human mate preferences. However, which ecological factors drive these effects remains controversial. For example, while some studies have found that regional variation in women's preferences for masculine male faces is better predicted by measures of health than by measures of male-male violence, other studies have found the reverse. Here we investigated this issue using multilevel modeling of data from a cross-national sample of more than 13,000 men and women. We found that preferences for masculine versus feminine face shapes were predicted by a measure of pathogen stress, but not by homicide rate. We also found that ecological factors were more important for variation in preferences for male than female faces. Together, these findings suggest that pathogen-related factors are more important for face preferences than violence-related factors, at least for variation at the regional level.
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