Variation in women’s facial masculinity preference is better explained by genetic differences than by previously identified context-dependent effects

BP Zietsch, AJ Lee, JM Sherlock, Patrik Jern

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48 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1440–1448
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • behavior genetics
  • evolutionary psychology

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