If you’re a bit of a neanderthal, you might need to book a flight to Ethopia or Cambodia to find a prospective mate. New research into women’s preferences for male faces has unveiled that guys with lots of testosterone are only prized in developing countries; particularly where disease is rife.
Chest picture from Shutterstock
Human behavioral ecologists at the University of Dundee, Scotland measured the hormone levels of Caucasian males with a focus on testosterone and cortisol; a steroid hormone linked to stress levels. They then asked 2842 heterosexual women from 13 countries to rate composite images of the male faces in the areas of attractiveness, masculinity and health.
The composite images were split into males with high and low levels of testosterone and males with high and low levels of cortisol. The testosterone group possessed more masculine facial traits, such as larger jaws and heavier brows.
The research found that the faces of men with high testosterone levels were mainly preferred by women from developing countries where infectious disease levels were high.
Women in societies with low development scores and high levels of parasites preferred faces of men with high testosterone. Women in all societies preferred faces of men with low cortisol. There was also an interaction, such that preferences for combinations of the two hormones varied across societies with level of societal development. We suggest that our results provide support for facultative adjustment of women’s face preferences in the context of local ecological demands.
The researchers argue that facial attraction unconsciously shifts towards men with high testosterone in response to the demands of the current environment. Guys with high levels of cortisol, meanwhile, aren’t preferred in any society — so if you’re unlucky in love, it might be because you’re a stress-pot.
“Perhaps, combinations of the hormones signal different traits or qualities (e.g. health or dominance), which are weighted differently in mate preferences by women in different societies,” the report concludes. Well, the Bible did say that the meek would inherit the Earth.