Centre for Evolutionary Biology

Human behavioural ecology

What makes a male or female attractive to members of the opposite sex, and why?

We are examining sexual selection on human facial features. Sexual dimorphism in the face and body is pronounced: men have a more prominent brow ridge, the eyes are smaller, the face is wider and longer, and the chin square and prominent.

Women find masculine features in men's faces attractive, and more masculinised men report greater numbers of sexual partners. Men find feminine facial features more attractive.

People also find symmetrical faces, and faces closest to the population average, more attractive. We seek to uncover the biological basis for these preferences, examining the links between facial traits, genetic diversity, health, and ultimately reproductive success.

People often form impressions about others based on their facial features. Assessment of an individual's faithfulness could be adaptive if it allows women to avoid being left to care for their offspring alone, or men to avoid cuckoldry. We are studying how humans assess faithfulness and if there is any validity in the judgments they make.

Finally, we are studying adaptations to sperm competition in men. Like non-human animals, men can avoid cuckoldry by behavioural (mate guarding) or physiological (sperm allocation) means. We are exploring how women's attractiveness and a man's own attractiveness influences his mate-guarding behaviour and expenditure on sperm production.

This research is a collaborative initiative between the Centre for Evolutionary Biology and The FaceLab which hosts the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.


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Last updated:
Saturday, 2 April, 2016 5:11 PM