Exposure to sexually attractive men decreases women's preferences for feminine faces

Lisa L M Welling, Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. DeBruine, Anthony C. Little, Finlay G. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


Here we show that women's preferences for femininity (vs. masculinity) in men's faces are decreased after viewing a slideshow of images of highly attractive men, but not after viewing a slideshow of relatively unattractive men. As masculinity is thought to be a cue of men's heritable fitness, and viewing images of highly attractive opposite-sex individuals increases sexual motivation, this may indicate that women increase their preferences for male cues of heritable fitness in circumstances where mating is likely to occur. This context-sensitivity in women's face preferences may, therefore, be adaptive, since decreased preferences for feminine men (i.e. increased preferences for masculine men) when sexual motivation is enhanced may increase offspring viability. Interestingly, we found that viewing images of highly attractive men also decreased women's preferences for femininity in female faces. This latter finding could either reflect increased derogation of attractive (i.e. feminine) same-sex competitors when sexual motivation is enhanced or be a low-cost functionless by-product of a mechanism for increasing preferences for cues of men's heritable fitness when sexual motivation is high. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that recent visual experience with highly attractive opposite-sex individuals influences attractiveness judgments and present novel evidence for potentially adaptive context-sensitivity in attractiveness judgments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


  • Attraction
  • Derogation
  • Face preference
  • Facial attractiveness
  • Mate choice
  • Mate preference
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Exposure to sexually attractive men decreases women's preferences for feminine faces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this