Jones BC, DeBruine LM, Little AC, Burriss RP & Feinberg DR (2007). Social transmission of face preferences among humans. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in London School of Economics, UK. March 2007.

Previous studies demonstrating mate choice copying effects among females in non-human species have led many researchers to propose that social transmission of mate preferences may influence sexual selection for male traits. Although it has been suggested that social transmission may also influence mate preferences in humans, there is little empirical support for such effects. Here we show that observing other women with smiling (i.e. positive) expressions looking at male faces increased women’s preferences for those men to a greater extent than did observing women with neutral (i.e. relatively negative) expressions looking at male faces. By contrast, the reverse was true for male participants (i.e. observing women with neutral expressions looking at male faces increased male participant’s preferences for those men to a greater extent than did observing women smiling at male faces). This latter finding suggests that within-sex competition promotes negative attitudes among men towards other men who are the target of positive social interest from women. Our findings demonstrate that social transmission of face preferences influences judgments of men’s attractiveness, potentially demonstrating a mechanism for social transmission of mate preferences.

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