Effects of partner conception risk phase on male perception of dominance in faces

Robert P. Burriss, Anthony C. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


Several studies have suggested that women may prefer to engage in extra-pair copulations with males who appear dominant and to do so near ovulation. While there is some evidence that males are more jealous of dominant rivals and more proprietary when their partners are near ovulation, there is none that suggests the existence of counterstrategic perceptual shifts that mirror those seen in women. We provide such evidence here. Composites of male faces that were either high or low in rated dominance were presented to male participants who provided ratings of dominance. A three-way interaction between stimulus-face dominance, partner conception risk phase, and partner oral contraceptive use was found; men whose partners did not use an oral contraceptive and were in the high conception risk phase of their cycle displayed increased dominance ratings of high-dominance male faces. We conclude that males have evolved counterstrategies to deal with female infidelity that include an overattribution of dominance to those rivals most likely to present a threat at times when that threat is greatest. This overattribution is likely to lead to increases in jealousy and mate-retention behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-305
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • Dominance
  • Faces
  • Masculinity
  • Ovulation
  • Preference shift


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