Women’s preferences for male facial masculinity are not condition-dependent in a large online study

Stefan Van Dongen, Femke Danckaers, Jessie Beerten, Toon Huysmans


While several studies have found evidence for conditional-dependent effect on women’s preferences for male masculinity, others have questioned the relative importance of these effects. In this study, we evaluated variation in women’s preference for male facial masculinity in a forced-choice experiment. Nearly 1200 participants scored preference for manipulated photos and surface scans. Between-individual variation in preferences were relatively small, especially for the evaluation of the surface scans. Nevertheless, preferences from the evaluations of photos and scans correlated positively, indicating that both stimuli provide similar biological information. Only few condition-dependent variables correlated significantly with preference for masculinity, and not all in predicted directions. Stronger preference for masculine male faces – albeit only significant for the photos – with higher own women attractiveness was observed as expected. Yet, for perceived infectability, consistently across the photos and scans, a negative association with preference for masculine faces was observed, which is opposite to theoretical predictions. In addition, no effects of pathogen exposure, germ aversion (a correlate of disgust), relational status, preference for short term relationships and sociosexuality were detected. Thus, overall, our study is in line with recent large studies that also find only very weak condition-dependent effects, if any.

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