Does a preference for a masculine/feminine face depend on environmental and preferred relationship type?

From: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

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  • 108 women and 90 males, 17–45 years of age.


  • Ten pairs of masculine and feminine faces were presented.
  • Participants were asked to choose the face of the pair that they found most attractive.
  • When making their choice, participants were asked to consider themselves as either living in a comfortable middle-class environment, or a difficult working-class environment. They were also provided with definitions for long and short term relationships.


  • In women, it appears that a comfortable lifestyle may allow them to choose highly attractive men but who may not be the most attentive partners, and as we might expect, this is only an issue when it comes to rating for long-term relationships.
  • In short-term partners, parental investment is minimal, and so the worth of masculine-featured males, associated with low investment but potentially high levels of attractiveness, appears high for both difficult and comfortable environments.
  • The results from men are similar to the results from women. A preference for potentially lower-quality women for long-term relationships in difficult environments suggests that men may also face a trade-off in their choice of partner in terms of quality and investment/potential desertion.
  • For men, difficulty had the opposite effect for short-term relationships (i.e. higher-quality/feminine women were preferred in difficult environments than in secure).


  • Women prefer less-masculine male faces and men prefer less-feminine female faces for long-term relationships under conditions of environmental difficulty.
  • Both men and women favour a low quality/high-investment partner for long-term relationships.