Kandrik M, Jones BC, Fincher CL & DeBruine LM (2013). Men’s, but not women’s, sociosexual orientation predicts couples’ sensitivity to sexually dimorphic cues in own-sex faces. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in Amsterdam, Netherlands. March 2013.


Previous research suggests that peoples’ perceptions of own-sex individuals can change according to within-subject changes in their romantic partners’ sexual strategies. However, few studies have examined whether between-subjects differences in romantic partners’ sexual strategies also predict perceptions of own-sex individuals in this way. The revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI-R) assesses individuals’ openness to uncommitted sexual relationships and shows high test-retest reliability, even over long periods of time. Consequently, we tested whether men and women in heterosexual romantic couples’ scores on the SOI-R predicted the extent to which those couples ascribed high dominance and attractiveness to own-sex faces displaying exaggerated sex-typical facial cues.


Fifty-seven heterosexual couples completed both the SOI-R and standard tests for assessing the extent to which high dominance and attractiveness are ascribed to opposite-sex and own-sex faces manipulated in sex-typicality. The members of these couples were each tested individually.


The extent to which both men and women ascribed high dominance and attractiveness to own-sex faces displaying exaggerated sex-typical shapes was positively correlated with men’s, but not women’s, SOI-R. In other words, individuals in couples where the man reported being more open to short-term sexual relationships were more likely to ascribe dominance and attractiveness to own-sex individuals displaying a putative cue of phenotypic condition. Consistent with other recent work suggesting that SOI-R does not predict partnered individuals’ attractiveness judgments of potential mates, neither men’s nor women’s SOI-R predicted perceptions of opposite-sex faces.


Our findings suggest that both men’s and women’s perceptions of potential competitors for mates may be sensitive to the male partner’s sexual strategy. Such individual differences in perceptions may benefit men’s ability to compete for extra-pair and/or replacement mates and women’s mate retention behaviours.

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