SOLUTION: ANTH 332 UOFM Wk 8 The Health of A Nation Predicts Their Mate Preferences Worksheet

ANTH 332 Assignment 4
This worksheet does double-duty as a study guide for a part of this week’s quiz. It focuses on
readings for week 8 that further investigate factors that affect variation in preferences for cues of
Together, questions on each reading are worth 20 points. Make sure you answer all parts of each
question. Type your answers into this sheet after the question you are answering, save it as a doc, docx,
or pdf file, and submit it via Canvas.
1. DeBruine et al. 2010 “The Health of a Nation Predicts Their Mate Preferences: Cross-cultural
Variation in Women’s Preferences for Masculinized Male Faces” (pp. 277-282)
1a) According to DeBruine et al (2010), what trade-offs do women face in choosing between more
and less masculine men, and how are they predicted to be related to women’s preferences
1b) How were each of the following related to average facial masculinity preferences?
National Health Index?
GNP and Age?
Mating Strategies (SOI) versus NHI as a predictor of facial masculinity preferences?
1c) In the discussion, what three additional factors that were not measured do DeBruine et al.
suggest might also affect women’s cross-cultural preferences for facial masculinity.
1d) What factor limits generalizability of these results to the total range of variation in NHI?
2. Little et al. 2011 “Exposure to Visual Cues of Pathogen Contagion Changes Preferences for
Masculinity and Symmetry in Opposite-Sex Faces” (pp. 2032-2039)
2a) What was the hypothesis tested in this study?
2b) Overall, what did analyses demonstrate regarding preferences for high sexual dimorphism and
symmetry after exposure to cues to environmental pathogens than after exposure to images
without these cues?
2c) Were these changes in preferences restricted to particular combinations of own sex and
opposite sex faces?
3. Quist et al. 2011 “Sociosexuality Predicts Women’s Preferences for Symmetry in Men’s Faces” (pp.
3a) What was the hypothesis tested in this study?
3b) What was the relationship between women’s sociosexual attitude and their preferences for
men’s faces? For women’s faces?
3c) Why does the pattern of results from this study suggest that the underlying psychology is
specific to mating and not social relations in general?
4. Price et al. 2013 “Body Shape Preferences: Associations with Rater Body Shape and Sociosexuality”
(pp. 1-18)
4a) According to Price et al, why should one’s own attractiveness affect preferences for attractive
traits in others? What costs are there for less attractive individuals to simply pursue the most
attractive potential mates?
4c) For male raters:
what was the relationship between SOI-R and attractive female traits (VHI and WHR)?
what was the relationship between men’s own perceived attractiveness and their preference for
attractive female traits (VHI and WHR)?
4d) For female raters what was the relationship between the woman’s own VHI, WHR, perceived
attractiveness and SOI and attractive male WCR and VHI?
4c) Overall, were there greater condition-dependent body preferences among male or female
raters? Why might this be?
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Exposure to visual cues of pathogen contagion changes
preferences for masculinity and symmetry in opposite-sex
Anthony C. Little, Lisa M. DeBruine and Benedict C. Jones
Proc. R. Soc. B 2011 278, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1925 first published online 1 December 2010
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Proc. R. Soc. B (2011) 278, 2032–2039
Published online 1 December 2010
Exposure to visual cues of pathogen
contagion changes preferences for
masculinity and symmetry in
opposite-sex faces
Anthony C. Little1,*, Lisa M. DeBruine2 and Benedict C. Jones2
Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
Evolutionary approaches to human attractiveness have documented several traits that are proposed to be
attractive across individuals and cultures, although both cross-individual and cross-cultural variations are
also often found. Previous studies show that parasite prevalence and mortality/health are related to cultural variation in preferences for attractive traits. Visual experience of pathogen cues may mediate such
variable preferences. Here we showed individuals slideshows of images with cues to low and high pathogen prevalence and measured their visual preferences for face traits. We found that both men and women
moderated their preferences for facial masculinity and symmetry according to recent experience of visual
cues to environmental pathogens. Change in preferences was seen mainly for opposite-sex faces, with
women preferring more masculine and more symmetric male faces and men preferring more feminine
and more symmetric female faces after exposure to pathogen cues than when not exposed to such
cues. Cues to environmental pathogens had no significant effects on preferences for same-sex faces.
These data complement studies of cross-cultural differences in preferences by suggesting a mechanism
for variation in mate preferences. Similar visual experience could lead to within-cultural agreement
and differing visual experience could lead to cross-cultural variation. Overall, our data demonstrate
that preferences can be strategically flexible according to recent visual experience with pathogen cues.
Given that cues to pathogens may signal an increase in contagion/mortality risk, it may be adaptive to
shift visual preferences in favour of proposed good-gene markers in environments where such cues are
more evident.
Keywords: sexual dimorphism; asymmetry; attractiveness; pathogens; disease; variation
Evolutionary approaches to human attractiveness have
documented several traits that are proposed to be attractive across individuals and cultures, potentially reflecting
species-wide ‘universal’ preferences. These include preferences for facial traits such as symmetry and sexually
dimorphic cues [1]. Several researchers have proposed
that symmetry and sexually dimorphic traits (masculine
appearance in men and feminine appearance in women)
in human faces may be cues to heritable fitness benefits
and therefore relate to attractiveness (e.g. [1]).
Symmetry has long been proposed to be associated
with male and female genotypic quality (e.g. [2]).
Deviations from perfect symmetry can be considered
a reflection of imperfect development. It has been
suggested that only high-quality individuals can maintain
symmetric development under environmental and genetic
stress and therefore symmetry can serve as an indicator of
phenotypic quality as well as genotypic quality (e.g. the
ability to resist disease; see [3] for review). Consistent
with this proposal, more asymmetric men and women
have been found to report more health problems [4],
although not all studies have found a relationship between
symmetry and health [5]. Both studies of real faces [6 – 9]
* Author for correspondence (
Received 10 September 2010
Accepted 10 November 2010
and recent studies manipulating symmetry [10 – 13]
provide evidence that symmetry is indeed found
attractive. While subtle facial asymmetries significantly
impact on attractiveness, the relationship is not
strong (e.g. [1]).
Masculine facial traits (large jaws, prominent brows) in
males are thought to be testosterone-dependent and, consequently, may represent an honest immunocompetence
handicap signalling quality [14]. Indeed, masculinefaced men do report having lower incidence of disease
[4] and better medical health [15]. Although there is
some evidence that masculine male faces are found attractive (e.g. [6,16,17]), several studies have shown that
feminine faces and faces of low dominance are also attractive [18 – 20]. This suggests that judgements of male facial
attractiveness may depend on more than just cues to
‘good genes’ for immunocompetence (e.g. [21]). In
women, facial attractiveness correlates with body attractiveness [22] and oestrogen-dependent characteristics of
the female body correlate with health and reproductive
fitness [23]. Increasing the sexual dimorphism of female
faces should therefore enhance attractiveness as oestrogen
also affects facial growth [24]. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that feminine female faces and faces of
women with high oestrogen are considered attractive
(e.g. [25]). Studies measuring facial features from photographs of women [6,26,27] and studies manipulating
This journal is q 2010 The Royal Society
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Cues to pathogens change preferences A. C. Little et al.
feminine traits in both real [28] and composite [20] faces
all indicate that femininity increase the attractiveness of
female faces.
Overall, there is support for the notion that sexual
dimorphism and symmetry in faces advertise some
aspects of quality and are preferred. Indeed, symmetry
and sexual dimorphism are correlated in male and
female faces [29], and preferences for these characteristics in opposite-sex faces are positively correlated [30].
Importantly, systematic variation is seen in preferences
for these facial cues. Previous studies have examined
preference for masculine and feminine traits in faces
showing that, at least in women, preferences can change
between individuals according to condition (as measured
by self-perceived and rated attractiveness [10,31]) and
partnership status [20], within individuals according to
hormonal fluctuations (e.g. across the menstrual cycle
[32 – 34]) and within individuals according to the temporal context of relationship (short- versus long-term
[21]). Women prefer relatively more masculine-faced
men when they think themselves attractive, when they
already have a partner, at peak fertility in the menstrual
cycle and when rating for short-term relationships.
These findings have been interpreted as consistent with
the idea that masculinity in male faces is associated with
good genes (i.e. they advertise genetic quality [1]), as
these are conditions under which we might expect
women to be most attentive to potentially heritable
genetic benefits. While less studied, similar results indicating individual differences in preference have been
seen for men judging female faces [35 – 37] and for men
and women judging symmetry [10,33,38].
The reason for individual variation in attraction to
masculinity and symmetry may lie in a trade-off between
genetic quality and investment [21,39]. High-quality
individuals may invest less in each partner (and offspring)
or be more likely to cheat on/desert partners. Highquality individuals may not make ideal long-term partners
in a species such as humans with extended parental
investment [40,41]. For example, high-testosterone men
are less likely to marry, more likely to divorce and have
more marital problems than lower-testosterone men
[42], and masculine-faced men are also perceived as
poor-quality parents [20]. Previous studies have mainly
focused on individual differences based on factors
intrinsic to the choosing individuals (e.g. physical attractiveness), but we may also expect variation according to
extrinsic ecological conditions that influence the relative
value of high parental investment versus good-gene/
high-fertility benefits from partners. For example,
the degree of harshness and pathogen stress in the
environment an individual inhabits might influence the
trade-off between a high-investing partner and one with
good genes, as it is known to influence reproductively
important outcomes and processes such as the age of
childbearing, sperm concentration and quality, coital
frequency, menstrual and hormonal cyclicity, fertility,
birth rates, and breast milk supply [43 – 46].
Under conditions of low resources, a preference for an
investing partner via a low-mating-effort/high-parentalinvestment strategy may be adaptive, whereas under conditions of relatively high resources, a choice for ‘good
genes’ via a high-mating-effort/low-parental-investment
strategy may be a better option [47,48]. For example, in
Proc. R. Soc. B (2011)
a ‘harsh’ environment that has low resource availability,
having a stable partner may be of increased importance,
particularly for women during pregnancy, as the resources
to raise a child may be scarce or difficult to acquire. Thus,
two parents to provide the resources necessary for offspring survival and eventual reproduction may be better
than one. Likewise, safe environments that have high
resource availability may favour the choice of good
genes, as an individual can acquire the resources they
need themselves. Essentially, there may be little gain in
terms of offspring survival/reproduction by the additional
effort of a second parent.
Alternatively, in a harsh environment where high
extrinsic mortality is greater, such as in high-pathogenrisk populations, the probability of offspring survival
and eventual reproduction decreases. Consequently,
there may be few benefits to attracting an attentive/investing partner, because individuals may maximize their
reproductive output by focusing on acquiring good
genes for their offspring to be able to thrive in the hostile
environment (e.g. [49,50]). However, in an environment
with low mortality rates, the probability of offspring survival and eventual reproduction is greater, and thus
choosing an investing partner aids in channelling those
resources to the care of relatively few, competitive
offspring [49,50].
Recent cross-cultural studies have examined these
issues by testing for variation in preferences across cultures varying in environmental stressors. Penton-Voak
et al. [51] found stronger preferences for male masculinity in Jamaicans than in the UK and Japan. They
suggested that a higher pathogen prevalence may result
in increased preferences for masculinity in male faces,
as it has been shown that pathogen load is positively
related to the importance of physical attractiveness
in mate choice across different cultures [52] and
that masculinity is preferred more under conditions
where women may acquire genetic benefits to offspring
[21,32]. The Hadza, a tribe of African hunter – gatherers,
have been found to exhibit stronger preferences for facial
symmetry than do participants in the UK [38]. Following
the same logic as Penton-Voak et al. [51], a difference in
pathogen load between samples may also explain
increased preferences for symmetry in the Hadza because
individuals close to the equator have higher pathogen
loads [53] and outdoor living is likely to increase
exposure to pathogens. A more recent study examined a
larger cross-cultural sample of 30 countries, calculating
both the average female preference for male facial masculinity and a composite health index derived from World
Health Organization statistics [54]. This study found
that poorer health (i.e. higher mortality and incidence
of disease) was related to stronger female preferences
for male masculinity [54].
Consistent with these studies, DeBruine et al. [55] also
demonstrated a correlation between women’s preference
for masculine male face shape and sensitivity to pathogen
disgust. Women who were more disgusted by pathogens
showed stronger preferences for masculine male faces,
while no such relationship was found for moral or
sexual disgust. This study suggests that individual differences in sensitivity to pathogens may explain some
variation in women’s masculinity preferences within
a culture.
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A. C. Little et al. Cues to pathogens change preferences
Results from all of these studies indicate that prevalence of
and sensitivity to pathogens are potentially important determinants of mate preferences, but these studies are
correlational and do not address how such associations
arise. Indeed, a re-analysis of the data presented in
DeBruine et al. [54] suggested that factors associated with
male–male competition (e.g. homicide rates) might also be
associated with variation in preferences for masculinity in
women across cultures [56]. The current study tested for a
mechanism by which such variable preferences may come
about by examining the effect of exposure to visual cues to
pathogens on symmetry and masculinity/femininity preferences in both men and women. Following demonstrations
that preferences for cues of genetic quality are higher in
cultures with higher pathogen stress and among women
who are particularly sensitive to pathogens, we hypothesized
that exposure to visual cues to pathogens would increase
women’s preference for masculine- and symmetricfaced men, and men’s preference for feminine- and
symmetric-faced women.
(a) Participants
One hundred and twenty-four women (aged between 17 and
45 years, mean ¼ 24.8, s.d. ¼ 6.6) and 117 men (aged
between 17 and 45 years, mean ¼ 26.9, s.d. ¼ 7.4) took
part in the study. Participants were selected for being older
than 16 and less than 46 years of age and reporting to be heterosexual. Participants were recruited for the study online via
a research-based website ( and the study
was conducted online. Previous research has shown that
systematic variation in men’s and women’s face preferences
observed in online studies is very similar to that seen in
laboratory studies (e.g. [33,37,57]).
(b) Stimuli
All images were photographs of white individuals (aged
between 18 and 25) without spectacles or obvious facial
hair. Photographs were taken under standardized lighting
conditions and with participants posing with a neutral
expression. To equate size, all images were aligned to standardize the position of the pupils in the image. As we are
testing whether exposure to pathogen-related stimuli can
shift preferences, it is important that preferences for sexually
dimorphic shape and symmetry are not at ceiling. Therefore,
our manipulations are purposefully subtle.
(c) Sexually dimorphic shape
To measure preferences for sexually dimorphic features, we
used pairs of composite face images. The pairs comprised
one masculinized and one feminized version of the same
face (figure 1). Images were manufactured from 50 young
adult Caucasian male and 50 female photographs. Composite images, composed of multiple images of different
individuals, were used as base faces (10 male and 10
female composite images each made of five individual
images). The composite images were made by creating an
average image made up of five randomly assigned individual
facial photographs [19] (this technique has been used to
create composite images in previous studies; see [58,59]).
Faces were transformed on a sexual dimorphism dimension
using the linear difference between a composite of all
50 male faces and a composite of all 50 female faces (following the technique reported by Perrett et al. [20]). Transforms
Proc. R. Soc. B (2011)
Figure 1. (a) Feminized (left) and masculinized (right) male
faces. (b) Symmetric (left) and asymmetric (right) male faces.
represented +50 per cent of the difference between these
two composites (100% would re …
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