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Does Men’s Facial Sexual Dimorphism Affect Male Observers’ Selective Attention?

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Abstract

Facial sexual dimorphism affects observers’ physical dominance ratings. Here, we test whether such perceived dominance influences selective attention. To minimize demand characteristics, we examined whether task-irrelevant masculinized men’s faces would show an attentional bias in several experimental paradigms. Experiment 1 employed a Posner Cueing Paradigm in which participants classified shapes after a masculinized or feminized man’s face was presented. We could not find a difference in participants’ classification speeds when either feminized or masculinized face cued target position. Experiment 2 employed a Flanker Task in which participants judged letter orientation, while ignoring flanking faces. There was no observed difference in participants’ reaction time (RT) when masculinized faces flanked the target. Experiment 3 employed a Dot Probe Task, where participants were presented with a masculinized face and a feminized face to the left and right of center screen, and a target shape was presented in the location of one face. Participants’ task was to classify shape orientation. We observe a small effect of facial sexual dimorphism on participants’ classification speed. In Experiment 4, we primed participants with images meant to induce fear or arousal before each trial of a Dot Probe Task. Following the presentation of a fear inducing picture, participants RT to classify shapes when a masculinized face cued target position did not differ from when a feminized face cued target position. The two different presentation times did not create different patterns of results, indicating that masculinized faces did not induce either a cueing or inhibitory affect. Overall, we failed to support the hypothesis that people selectively attend to masculinized faces when they are presented as irrelevant information.

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Data Availability

The data generated during or analysed for the current experiments are available in an Open Science Framework repository: https://osf.io/53cru/.

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Albert, G., Wells, E., Arnocky, S. et al. Does Men’s Facial Sexual Dimorphism Affect Male Observers’ Selective Attention?. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology 9, 1–25 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-022-00205-8

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