Universty at Albany

Campus Update

Study Reveals a Manís Face Conveys Information About His Body, Strength, and Sexual Behavior

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150, (mediarelations@uamail.albany.edu)

Journal of Evolutionary Psychology
University at Albany researchers study the correlation between attractiveness and long-term satisfaction in relationships.
ALBANY, N.Y. (September 9, 2008) -- A  woman choosing a potential partner based solely on a portrait photograph stands a good chance of being happy with the result -- recent research shows that more often than not, "what you see is what you get." University at Albany psychologists found that men with conventionally attractive faces were consistently stronger, had more masculine bodies, and reported more sex partners.

In the report, "Menís faces convey information about their bodies and their behavior: What you see is what you get," published in the current issue of the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, University at Albany researchers Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. and Melanie L. Shoup asked groups of female college students to rate photos of male faces. The ratings were then compared to independent measurements of each maleís physique, grip strength, number of sex partners, and age of first sexual experience. Results showed that men rated as more attractive also had traditionally masculine, wedge-shaped bodies, stronger handgrip strength, more sex partners, and became sexually active at earlier ages.

According to Gallup, an evolutionary psychologist, "What people find attractive in other people is a byproduct of evolution." People with attractive features tend to be healthier and more reproductively viable.  Research has shown, for example, that men with attractive faces live longer and have higher quality, more viable sperm.  Previous work by UAlbany psychologists also shows that womenís voices change as a function of the menstrual cycle, and their voices are rated as being most attractive when they are in the fertile phase.

The authors suggest that the face is just one element in a package of traits that have evolved to signal good genes, health, and vitality to potential reproductive partners.  Since humans pay more attention to the face, they have evolved to unconsciously choose mates with good genes and good health based on cues embedded in the face.

Countering the idea that what people find attractive in one another is a byproduct of learning and experience, newborn babies spend more time looking at photos of people who adults rate as being more attractive.  Likewise, attractive faces are a cross-cultural universal; i.e., Asians rate Caucasian faces the same way Caucasians do and vice versa.

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