Cai Z, Hahn AC, Zhang L, Holzleitner IJ, Lee A, DeBruine LM & Jones BC (2019). No evidence that facial attractiveness, femininity, averageness, or coloration are cues to susceptibility to infectious illnesses in a university sample of young adult women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 40: 156-159. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.10.002 [data] [preprint]

Previous reports that women with attractive faces are healthier have been widely cited as evidence that sexual selection has shaped human mate preferences. However, evidence for correlations between women’s physical health and facial attractiveness is equivocal. Moreover, positive results on this issue have generally come from studies of self-reported health in small samples. The current study took standardized face photographs of women who completed three different health questionnaires assessing susceptibility to infectious illnesses (N=590). Of these women, 221 also provided a saliva sample that was assayed for immunoglobulin A (a marker of immune function). Analyses showed no significant correlations between rated facial attractiveness and either scores on any of the health questionnaires or salivary immunoglobulin A. Furthermore there was no compelling evidence that objective measures of sexual dimorphism of face shape, averageness of face shape, or facial coloration were correlated with any of our health measures. While other measures of health may yet reveal robust associations with facial appearance, these null results do not support the prominent and influential assumption that women’s facial attractiveness is a cue of young adult women’s susceptibility to infectious illnesses, at least in our study population.

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