Fertility Status in Visual Processing of Men’s Attractiveness

Abstract

Physical characteristics, such as a V-shaped torso and body hair, are visually salient information that reflect a potential mate’s immunocompetence, status, and reproductive potential (Dixson et al. 2014; Singh 1994), and are thus often desired by women. Recently, the use of eye tracking in attraction research has demonstrated that visual patterns are behavioral indices of interest in a potential mate. Two studies investigated women’s visual perception of men’s attractiveness across different phases of the menstrual cycle (i.e., low vs. high fertility) while manipulating hair distribution across waist to chest ratios. In study 1 (N = 83), men with low (0.7) waist to chest ratios were rated as more attractive, and women focused most of their visual attention to the upper region of the body (i.e., head and midriff). There were no differences in visual attention as a function of fertility status. Study 2 (N = 53) replicated the findings from study 1 and found support for visual differences across the menstrual cycle using progesterone. Women viewed the head region (i.e., face) longer and took more time viewing men in general during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle (low progesterone) compared to the nonfertile phase (high progesterone). Study 2 also showed that visual attention to the head and chest region was influenced by short-term mating orientation. The findings add to the existing literature on visual attention and attraction, and they contribute new findings in determining differences in visual perception across the menstrual cycle and mating orientation in women.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

References

  1. Alexander, R. D., & Noonan, K. M. (1979). Concealment of ovulation, parental care, and human social evolution. In N. A. Chagnon & W. Irons (Eds.), Evolutionary biology and human social behavior: an anthropological perspective (pp. 436–453). Belmont, CA: Duxbury Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson, U. S., Perea, E. F., Vaughn Becker, D., Ackerman, J. M., Shapiro, J. R., Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2010). I only have eyes for you: ovulation redirects attention (but not memory) to attractive men. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(5), 804–808.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Baker, R. R., & Bellis, M. A. (1995). Human sperm competition: copulation, masturbation and infidelity. London: Chapman and Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., Walker, B. (2015). Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models Using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software, 67(1), 1-48. https://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v067.i01.

  5. Blake, K., Dixson, B. J. W., O’Dean, S. M., & Denson, T. F. (2016). Standardized methodological protocols for measuring the effects of fertility on women’s behavior: a data-driven approach contrasting counting and hormonal methods. Hormones and Behavior, 81, 74–83.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Braun, M. F., & Bryan, A. (2006). Female waist to hip and male waist to shoulder ratios as determinants of romantic partner desirability. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(5), 805–819.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: an evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204–232.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (2019). Mate preferences and their behavrioal manifistations. Annual Review of Psychology, 70, 77–110.

  9. Buunk, B. P., & Dijkstra, P. (2005). A narrow waist versus broad shoulders: sex and age differences in the jealousy-evoking characteristics of a rival’s body build. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 379–389.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. DeBruine, L. M., Hahn, A. C., & Jones, B. C. (2019). Does the interaction between partnership status and average progesterone level predict women’s preferences for facial masculinity? Hormones and Behavior, 107, 80–82.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Dijkstra, P., & Buunk, B. P. (2001). Sex differences in the jealousy-evoking nature of a rival’s body build. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 335–341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity, and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(3), 236–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dixson, B. J., & Rantala, M. J. (2016). The role of facial and body hair distribution in women’s judgments of men’s sexual attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 877–889.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Dixson, B. J., & Vasey, P. L. (2012). Beards augment perceptions of men’s age, social status, and aggressiveness, but not attractiveness. Behavioral Ecology, 23, 481–490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dixson, A., Halliwell, G., East, R., Wignarajah, P., & Anderson, M. (2003). Masculine somatotype and hirsuteness as determinants of sexual attractiveness to women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(1), 29–39.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Dixson, B. J., Dixson, A. F., Bishop, P. J., & Parish, A. (2010). Human physique and sexual attractiveness in men and women: a New Zealand-US comparative study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(3), 798–806.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Dixson, B. J., Tan, J. C., & Awasthy, M. (2013). Do women’s preferences for men’s facial hair change with reproductive status? Behavioral Ecology, 24(3), 708–716.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dixson, B. J., Grimshaw, G. M., Ormsby, D. K., & Dixson, A. F. (2014). Eye-tracking women’s preferences for men’s somatotypes. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35, 73–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Dixson, B. J., Rantala, M. J., Melo, E. F., & Brooks, R. C. (2017). Beards and the big city: displays of masculinity may be amplified under crowded conditions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 259–264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Dixson, B. J., Blake, K. R., Denson, T. F., Gooda-Vossos, A., O’Dean, S. M., Sulikowski, D., … & Brooks, R. C. (2018a). The role of mating context and fecundability in women’s preferences for men’s facial masculinity and beardedness. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 93, 90–102.

  21. Dixson, B. J., Lee, A. J., Blake, K. R., Jasienska, G., & Marcinkowska, U. M. (2018b). Women’s preference for men’s beards show no relation to their ovarian cycle phase and sex hormone levels. Hormones and Behavior, 97, 137–144.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Dixson, B. J., Rantala, M. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2019). Cross-cultural variation in women’s preferences for men’s body hair. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1–17.

  23. Fan, J., Dai, W., Liu, F., & Wu, J. (2005). Visual perception of male body attractiveness. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 272, 219–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gangestad, S. W., & Thornhill, R. (1999). Menstrual cycle variation in women’s preferences for the scent of symmetrical men. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265, 927–933.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G., Welling, L. M., Gildersleeve, K., Pillsworth, E. G., Burriss, R. P., Larson, C. M., & Puts, D. A. (2016). How valid are assessments of conception probability in ovulatory cycle research? Evaluations, recommendations, and theoretical implications. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 85–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Garza, R., Heredia, R. R., & Cieślicka, A. B. (2016). Male and female perception of physical attractiveness: an eye movement study. Evolutionary Psychology, 14(1), 1–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Garza, R., Heredia, R. R., & Cieslicka, A. B. (2017). An eye tracking examination of men’s attractiveness by conceptive risk women. Evolutionary Psychology, 15(1), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Geary, D. C. (2010). Male, female: the evolution of human sex differences (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  29. Genovese, J. E. C. (2008). Physique correlates with reproductive success in an archival sample of delinquent youth. Evolutionary Psychology, 6, 369–385.

  30. Gildersleeve, K., Haselton, M. G., & Fales, M. R. (2014). Do women’s mate preferences change across the ovulatory cycle? A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1205–1259. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035438.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Henss, R. (1995). Waist-to-hip ratio and attractiveness. Replication and extension. Personality and Individual Differences, 19(4), 479-488.

  32. Hughes, S. M., & Gallup, G. G., Jr. (2002). Sex differences in morphological predictors of sexual behavior: shoulder to hip and waist to hip ratios. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 173–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Jackson, J. J., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2007). The structure and measurment of human mating strategies: Toward a multidimensional model of sociosexuality. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 382–391.

  34. Janssen, I., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Ross, R. (2004). Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(3), 379–384.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Jones, B. C., Hahn, A. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2019). Ovulation, sex hormones, and women’s mating psychology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23, 51–62.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Jünger, J., Kordsmeyer, T. L., Gerlach, T. M., & Penke, L. (2018). Fertile women evaluate male bodies as more attractive, regardless of masculinity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39, 412–423.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Kasperk, C. H., Wakley, G. K., Hierl, T., & Ziegler, R. (1997). Gonadal and adrenal androgens are potent regulators of human bone cell metabolism in vitro. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12, 464–471.

  38. Lassek, W. D., & Gaulin, S. J. (2009). Costs and benefits of fat-free muscle mass in men: Relationship to mating success, dietary requirements, and native immunity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(5), 322–328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2007). Preferences for masculinity in male bodies change across the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 51(5), 633–639.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Maisey, D. S., Vale, E. L. E., Cornelissen, P. L., & Tovee, M. J. (1999). Characteristics of male attractiveness for women. The Lancet, 353.

  41. Marcinkowska, U. M., Galbarczyk, A., & Jasienska, G. (2018a). La donna è mobile? Lack of cyclical shifts in facial symmetry, and facial and body masculinity preferences—a hormone based study. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 88, 47–53.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Marcinkowska, U. M., Kaminski, G., Little, A. C., & Jasienska, G. (2018b). Average ovarian hormone levels, rather than daily values and their fluctuations, are related to facial preferences among women. Hormones and Behavior, 102, 114–119.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Neave, N., & Shields, K. (2008). The effects of facial hair manipulation on female perceptions of attractiveness, masculinity, and dominance in male faces. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(5), 373–377.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Penton-Voak, I. S., & Perrett, D. I. (2000). Female preferences for male faces changes cyclically: further evidence. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 39–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Price, M. E., Pound, N., Dunn, J., Hopkins, S., & Kang, J. (2013). Body shape preferences: associations with rater body shape and sociosexuality. PLoS One, 8(1), 1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Prokop, P., Rantala, M. J., & Fančovičová, J. (2012). Is plasticity in mating preferences adapted to perceived exposure to pathogens? Acta Ethologica, 15, 135–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Prokop, P., Rantala, M. J., Usak, M., & Senay, I. (2013). Is a woman’s preference for chest hair in men influenced by parasite threat? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1181–1189.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. Provost, M. P., Troje, N. F., & Quinsey, V. L. (2008). Short-term mating strategies and attraction to masculinity in point-light walkers. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 65–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Puts, D., Bailey, D. H., Cardenas, R. A., Burris, P., Welling, L. L. M., Wheatley, J. R., et al. (2013). Women’s attractiveness changes with estradiol and progesterone across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 63, 13–19.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Rantala, M.J. (1999). Human nakedness: Adaptation against ectoparasites? International Journal for Parasitology, 29, 1987–1989.

  51. Rantala, M. J., Polkki, M., & Rantala, L. M. (2010). Preference for human male body hair changes across the menstrual cycle and menopause. Behavioral Ecology, 21, 419–423.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Roney, J. R., Simmons, Z. L., & Gray, P. B. (2011). Changes in estradiol predict within-women shifts in attraction to facial cues of men’s testosterone. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36, 742–749.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Singh, D. (1993). Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: role of waist to hip ratio. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 293–307.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  54. Singh, D. (1994). Is thin really beautiful and good? Relationship between waist to hip ratio (WHR) and female attractiveness. Personality and Individual Differences, 16, 123–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Suschinsky, K. D., Elias, L. J., & Krupp, D. B. (2007). Looking for Ms. Right: Allocating attention to facilitate mate choice decisions. Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 428–441.

  56. Swami, V., & Tovee, M. J. (2005). Male physical attractiveness in Britain and Malaysia: a cross-cultural study. Body Image, 2, 383–393.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  57. Swami, V., Smith, J., Tsiokris, A., Georgiades, C., Sangareau, Y., Tovee, M. J., & Furnham, A. (2007). Male physical attractiveness in Britain and Greece: a cross-cultural study. The Journal of Social Psychology, 14(7), 15–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (1999). The scent of symmetry: a human sex pheromone that signals fitness? Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 175–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Valentova, J. V., Varella, M. A. C., Bártová, K., Štěrbová, Z., & Dixson, B. J. W. (2017). Mate preferences and choices for facial and body hair in heterosexual women and homosexual men: influence of sex, population, homogamy, and imprinting-like effect. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 241–248.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Wilcox, A. J., Dunson, D. B., Weinberg, C. R., Trussell, J., & Baird, D. D. (2001). Likelihood of conception with a single act of intercourse: providing benchmark rates for assessment of post-coital contraceptive. Contraception, 63, 211–215.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ray Garza.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Garza, R., Byrd-Craven, J. Fertility Status in Visual Processing of Men’s Attractiveness. Evolutionary Psychological Science 5, 328–342 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-019-00190-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mate preferences
  • Fertility status
  • Eye-tracking