Variation in Women's Preferences Regarding Male Facial Masculinity Is Better Explained by Genetic Differences Than by Previously Identified Context-Dependent Effects

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Zietsch BP, Lee AJ, Sherlock JM, Jern P
Publication year: 2015
Journal: Psychological Science
Journal acronym: PSYCHOL SCI
Volume number: 26
Issue number: 9
Start page: 1440
End page: 1448
Number of pages: 9
ISSN: 0956-7976
eISSN: 1467-9280


Women's preferences for masculine versus feminine male faces are highly variable. According to a dominant theory in evolutionary psychology, this variability results from adaptations that optimize preferences by calibrating them to certain contextual factors, including women's self-perceived attractiveness, short- versus long-term relationship orientation, pathogen disgust sensitivity, and stage of the menstrual cycle. The theory does not account for the possible contribution of genetic variation on women's facial masculinity preference. Using a large sample (N = 2,160) of identical and nonidentical female Finnish twins and their siblings, we showed that the proportion of variation in women's preferences regarding male facial masculinity that was attributable to genetic variation (38%) dwarfed the variation due to the combined effect of contextual factors (< 1%). These findings cast doubt on the importance of these context-dependent effects and may suggest a need for refocusing in the field toward understanding the wide genetic variation in these preferences and how this variation relates to the evolution of sexual dimorphism in faces.


behavior genetics, evolutionary psychology

Last updated on 2019-21-11 at 04:16