Women’s preferences for men’s facial masculinity: trade-off accounts revisited

Iris J. Holzleitner, David I. Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Studies on mate preferences have demonstrated that women’s perception of male attractiveness is sensitive to men’s facial masculinity, and that women’s preferences for facial masculinity are subject to individual differences, such as own condition. These individual differences have been linked to potential trade-offs that women face given the hypothesized benefits and costs that masculinity may cue in a potential partner. Whereas most studies based conclusions regarding such trade-offs on shifts in mean preferences for a feminized vs. masculinized face shape, here we directly investigated attractiveness as a function of different levels of masculinity. Using computer-graphic methods, we manipulated the facial masculinity of men’s 3D faces to vary between extremely feminine and hypermasculine, and assessed women’s preferences for these different masculinity levels in the light of individual differences in self-rated attractiveness, financial worries, pathogen disgust sensitivity, self-reported health and relationship status. Our findings show that some individual differences shift preferences towards a generally lower or higher masculinity level, whereas others affect the tolerance to low vs. high levels of masculinity. We suggest that the use of preference curves allows for a more comprehensive investigation of how and why women’s preferences for masculinity may shift under different contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-320
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date12 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Masculinity
  • Attractiveness
  • 3D
  • Face shape
  • Individual differences


Dive into the research topics of 'Women’s preferences for men’s facial masculinity: trade-off accounts revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this