Kevin Lewis

May 21, 2016

Facial Contrast Is a Cue for Perceiving Health From the Face

Richard Russell et al.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, forthcoming

How healthy someone appears has important social consequences. Yet the visual cues that determine perceived health remain poorly understood. Here we report evidence that facial contrast — the luminance and color contrast between internal facial features and the surrounding skin — is a cue for the perception of health from the face. Facial contrast was measured from a large sample of Caucasian female faces, and was found to predict ratings of perceived health. Most aspects of facial contrast were positively related to perceived health, meaning that faces with higher facial contrast appeared healthier. In 2 subsequent experiments, we manipulated facial contrast and found that participants perceived faces with increased facial contrast as appearing healthier than faces with decreased facial contrast. These results support the idea that facial contrast is a cue for perceived health. This finding adds to the growing knowledge about perceived health from the face, and helps to ground our understanding of perceived health in terms of lower-level perceptual features such as contrast.


Selection works both ways: BMI and marital formation among young women

Michael Malcolm & Ilker Kaya

Review of Economics of the Household, June 2016, Pages 293-311

The literature on entry into marriages has almost universally regarded a high body mass index (BMI) to be a disadvantage for women in the marriage market. But the theoretical effect of BMI on marital entry is actually uncertain because women who anticipate poor outcomes in the marriage market are more likely to accept early offers, while women with more desirable characteristics can afford to wait for a better match. Using data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we show that female entry into marriage does decline as BMI rises, but that early marriage is nonlinear in BMI. Women with an extremely high BMI or with a BMI in the most attractive range are less likely to marry early.


Transitory Environmental Threat Alters Sexually Dimorphic Mate Preferences and Sexual Strategy

Simon Reeve, Kristine Kelly & Lisa Welling

Evolutionary Psychological Science, June 2016, Pages 101-113

The Environmental Security Hypothesis (ESH) proposes that when the environment is less secure, people will show greater preference for mates with survival-promoting traits (Pettijohn and Jungeberg in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(9), 1186–1197, 2004). In this study, we manipulated perceived environmental security and measured preference for different body and face characteristics as well as attitudes toward long-term (LTM) and short-term mating (STM) strategies. Participants (N = 100) received a cover story designed to lead experimental, but not control, participants to believe they would be required to handle a poisonous snake. Participants then completed a measure of sociosexual orientation and selected the three opposite-sex face and body types that they found most attractive from image matrices depicting physical characteristics varying systematically across body and face shape. Female bodies varied in body fat and waist-to-hip ratio, and male bodies varied in muscle mass and waist-to-chest ratio. Face stimuli varied in masculine–feminine facial shape and masculine–feminine facial coloration. Results indicated that, compared to controls, men in the environmental-threat condition showed a preference for higher body fat, and women in the environmental-threat condition showed a preference for higher muscle mass and more masculine faces. These women also showed a more positive attitude toward STM, but not LTM. In line with the ESH, our findings predominantly support a context-specific pattern of mate preference and sexual strategies.


Conception Risk and the Ultimatum Game: When Fertility is High, Women Demand More

Adar Eisenbruch & James Roney

Personality and Individual Differences, August 2016, Pages 272–274

Evidence suggests that women become more intrasexually competitive in the fertile window of the menstrual cycle. Studies using the ultimatum game have extended this to economic decisions, finding that women in the fertile window are less generous towards and more likely to punish other women. In the present study, we used continuous estimates of conception risk to test replication of these findings in a sample of women who played the ultimatum game with same-sex partners. We found that women at higher conception risk made higher demands of their partners, indicating less inclination to cooperate and perhaps greater willingness to engage in costly punishment. Possible functions of cycle-phase shifts in intrasexual competition are discussed, and directions for future research on the psychology of cooperation are suggested.


Gender Interacts with Opioid Receptor Polymorphism A118G and Serotonin Receptor Polymorphism −1438 A/G on Speed-Dating Success

Karen Wu et al.

Human Nature, forthcoming

We examined an understudied but potentially important source of romantic attraction — genetics — using a speed-dating paradigm. The mu opioid receptor (OPRM1) polymorphism A118G (rs1799971) and the serotonin receptor (HTR2A) polymorphism −1438 A/G (rs6311) were studied because they have been implicated in social affiliation. Guided by the social role theory of mate selection and prior genetic evidence, we examined these polymorphisms’ gender-specific associations with speed-dating success (i.e., date offers, mate desirability). A total of 262 single Asian Americans went on speed-dates with members of the opposite gender and completed interaction questionnaires about their partners. Consistent with our prediction, significant gender-by-genotype interactions were found for speed-dating success. Specifically, the minor variant of A118G (G-allele), which has been linked to submissiveness/social sensitivity, predicted greater speed-dating success for women, whereas the minor variant of −1438 A/G (G-allele), which has been linked to leadership/social dominance, predicted greater speed-dating success for men. For both polymorphisms, reverse “dampening” effects of minor variants were found for opposite-gender counterparts. These results support previous research on the importance of the opioid and serotonergic systems in social affiliation, indicating that their influence extends to dating success, with opposite, yet gender-norm consistent, effects for men and women.


The impact of artificial fragrances on the assessment of mate quality cues in body odor

Caroline Allen et al.

Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Cultural practices may either enhance or interfere with evolved preferences as predicted by culture-gene coevolution theory. Here, we investigated the impact of artificial fragrances on the assessment of biologically relevant information in human body odor. To do this, we examined cross-sensory consistency (across faces and odors) in the perception of masculinity and femininity in men and women, and how consistency is influenced by the use of artificial fragrance. Independent sets of same and opposite-sex participants rated odor samples (with and without a fragrance, N = 239 raters), and photographs (N = 130) of 20 men and 20 women. In female, but not male raters, judgments of masculinity/femininity of non-fragranced odor and faces were correlated. However, the correlation between female ratings of male facial and odor masculinity was not evident when assessing a fragranced body odor. Further analysis also indicated that differences in ratings of male odor masculinity between men with high and low levels of facial masculinity were not present in fragranced body odor samples. This effect was absent in ratings of female odors by both female and male raters, suggesting sex-specificity in the effects of fragrance on odor perception. Our findings suggest that women may be more attentive to these odor cues, and therefore also to disruption of this information through fragrance use. Our results show that cultural practices might both enhance and interfere with evolved preferences.


Variation in Men’s Masculinity Affects Preferences for Women’s Voices at Different Points in the Menstrual Cycle

Nathan Pipitone, Gordon Gallup & Astrid Bartels

Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming

Recent work shows that humans respond to subtle shifts in women’s behavior across the menstrual cycle. In the present study, males rated voice recordings for attractiveness that had been taken from females at times of high and low fertility to determine whether levels of masculinity in men affect preferences for fertile female voices. Using a principle component analysis, we discovered that men with lower aggregate levels of body and vocal masculinity were more likely to prefer voices from naturally cycling women at high fertility. The present study replicates previous findings showing that voices from women at high fertility are more attractive, and provides some of the first evidence showing that between-subjects variation in levels of masculinity among men affect their preferences for women’s voices at different points in the menstrual cycle. These results add to previous work that show pair-bonded men who are judged to be lower in mate quality may have a vested interest in their female partners at times of higher fertility.


Sexual selection on male vocal fundamental frequency in humans and other anthropoids

David Puts et al.

Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 27 April 2016

In many primates, including humans, the vocalizations of males and females differ dramatically, with male vocalizations and vocal anatomy often seeming to exaggerate apparent body size. These traits may be favoured by sexual selection because low-frequency male vocalizations intimidate rivals and/or attract females, but this hypothesis has not been systematically tested across primates, nor is it clear why competitors and potential mates should attend to vocalization frequencies. Here we show across anthropoids that sexual dimorphism in fundamental frequency (F0) increased during evolutionary transitions towards polygyny, and decreased during transitions towards monogamy. Surprisingly, humans exhibit greater F0 sexual dimorphism than any other ape. We also show that low-F0 vocalizations predict perceptions of men's dominance and attractiveness, and predict hormone profiles (low cortisol and high testosterone) related to immune function. These results suggest that low male F0 signals condition to competitors and mates, and evolved in male anthropoids in response to the intensity of mating competition.


The Effects of Disease Vulnerability on Preferences for Self-Similar Scent

Naomi Muggleton & Corey Fincher

Evolutionary Psychological Science, June 2016, Pages 129-139

Humans possess disease avoidance mechanisms, which promote xenophobic attitudes under conditions of perceived vulnerability to disease (PVD). We investigate whether concerns about disease vulnerability influence attraction to olfactory cues of self-similarity. Participants donated a sample of their body odour, then completed a PVD questionnaire (subscales: germ aversion, perceived infectability; Duncan et al. 2009). Told that they were rating strangers’ odours, participants rated self, versus non-self, scent donations. Among women, attraction to self-scent was positively predicted by germ aversion (but not perceived infectability); surprisingly, men’s ratings of self-scent were negatively associated with germ aversion. Priming with pathogenic cues did not influence scent preferences. This association between germ aversion and odour preference suggests that mere scent exposure can inform the receiver of the immunological similarity between self and sender, which can influence social responses (i.e. attraction to vs. avoidance of scent sender). We discuss these results, as well as implications for the study of intergroup biases.


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