An interesting new study investigated how women determine attractiveness in male faces.
“We have found that women evaluate facial attractiveness on two levels — a sexual level, based on specific facial features like the jawbone, cheekbone and lips, and a nonsexual level based on overall aesthetics,” said Robert G. Franklin, graduate student in psychology working with Reginald Adams, assistant professor of psychology and neurology, Penn State. “At the most basic sexual level, attractiveness represents a quality that should increase reproductive potential, like fertility or health.”
The study asked women to rate the attractiveness of male and female faces in two categories – as dates and lab partners. First a baseline was established by one group. A second group of women where then asked to perform the same evaluation on the same facial images, but the some of the images were split horizontally.
By dividing the faces in half and disrupting the test subjects’ total facial processing, the researchers believed that women would rely more on specific facial features to determine attractiveness. They thought that this sexual route would come into play particularly when the participants saw faces that were suited as hypothetical dates rather than lab partners. The study showed exactly that.
The participating women were heterosexual, so the second group’s non-sexual evaluation of a split image featuring a female face closely matched the evaluation of the first group. The second group’s split face choices for date worthy males closely correlated with the first group as well.
The bottom line is that, at a statistically significant level, splitting the faces in half made the women rely on a purely sexual strategy of processing male faces. The study verifies that these two ways of assessing facial appeal exist and can be separated for women.
Attractiveness has a component that is independent of culture & society.
Researchers have long known that women’s biological routes of sexual attraction derive from an instinctive reproductive desire, relying on estrogen and related hormones to regulate them. The overall aesthetic approach is a less reward-based function, driven by progesterone.
How this complex network of hormones interacts and is channeled through the conscious brain and the human culture that shapes it is a mystery.
Men, don’t forget to look your best when you leave the house because you are always being judged and evaluated by women, like a piece of meat at the butcher shop.