The motivational salience of a face (i.e., the extent to which people will expend effort to view it) is correlated with its physical attractiveness and neural reward value. While previous work has shown that women’s face preferences are modulated by changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, studies have not yet investigated how hormones modulate the motivational salience of faces. To explore this issue, we collected saliva samples and assessed the motivational salience of faces across the menstrual cycle in 50 heterosexual women using a key-press paradigm. As in previous work, attractive faces generally held greater motivational salience. However, this effect of attractiveness on motivational salience was greater in test sessions with higher testosterone. Additionally, the motivational salience of attractive female faces and male faces generally was greater in test sessions with higher estradiol-to-progesterone ratios. These results suggest that sex hormones modulate the motivational salience of facial attractiveness.
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