Cues available in facial skin are used to assess mate quality in humans and non-human primates. In men, perception of skin healthiness and facial attractiveness are associated with heterozygosity at genes in the major histocompatibility complex, with potential implications for securing direct benefits through mate choice. There is, however, some debate as to the precise nature of the information available in skin that is used in health and attractiveness judgments. Here we investigate whether color cues are important in discrimination of skin healthiness and facial attractiveness in men’s faces. We presented images of men judged to have attractive or unattractive faces, and healthy or less healthy skin, to independent raters in either full-color or gray-scale monochrome. Differences in ratings across these conditions indicate that hue carries additive information over that available in other skin cues (e.g. texture and tone) and that this aids discrimination of individual men’s quality, especially in judgments of skin condition. We also found significant sex and age effects on discrimination. Our results are consistent with findings from other species that color cues can signal underlying quality and that sexual selection may have contributed to the evolution of color vision in primates.
- Color preference
- Mate choice
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology