DeBruine LM, Re DE, Perrett DI, Fincher CL & Jones BC (2013). Morphological versus perceptual measures of masculinity. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in Amsterdam, Netherlands. March 2013.


The extent to which women emphasise cues of masculinity when assessing potential mates has recently been questioned in light of negative findings relying on the new technique of measuring "morphological masculinity" using a discriminant score based on sex differences in 2D face shape. Here, we attempt to validate the use of this technique by comparing discriminant scores with perceptual ratings of masculinity/femininity and dominance.


Following published techniques, we calculated discriminant scores for two samples of 100 faces (50 male and 50 female). Both unmanipulated versions and colour-standardised versions of these faces in which colour and texture cues had been replaced with the average same-sex colour and texture (leaving only 2D shape cues) were rated for masculinity/femininity. The unmanipulated versions were also rated for dominance, which is strongly and consistently linked to both manipulations and ratings of male facial masculinity. Each combination of sample, face sex, stimulus type and rating was completed by a separate group of raters.


In both samples, the discriminant score failed to significantly correlate with human perceptual ratings of the masculinity of either the men’s unmanipulated faces or colour-standardised versions. However, the discriminant score did positively correlate with masculinity ratings of the women’s original faces and colour-standardised versions. Additionally, the discriminant score did not predict dominance ratings of male faces in either sample.


Discriminant scores failed to consistently predict human perceptual ratings of the masculinity or dominance of male faces, even when colour and texture cues were standardised so that only shape cues were assessed. However, discriminant scores did predict human perceptual ratings of the femininity of female faces. The results indicate that using discriminant scores may not be suitable for assessing male facial masculinity, which may alter the interpretation of previously reported findings.

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