Cross-cultural variation in men's preference for sexual dimorphism in women's faces

Urszula M. Marcinkowska, Mikhail V. Kozlov, Huajian Cai, Jorge Contreras-Garduño, Barnaby J. Dixson, Gavita A. Oana, Gwenaël Kaminski, Norman P. Li, Minna T. Lyons, Ike E. Onyishi, Keshav Prasai, Farid Pazhoohi, Pavol Prokop, Sandra L. Rosales Cardozo, Nicolle Sydney, Jose C. Yong, Markus J. Rantala


Both attractiveness judgements and mate preferences vary considerably cross-culturally. We investigated whether men's preference for femininity in women's faces varies between 28 countries with diverse health conditions by analysing responses of 1972 heterosexual participants. Although men in all countries preferred feminized over masculinized female faces, we found substantial differences between countries in the magnitude of men's preferences. Using an average femininity preference for each country, we found men's facial femininity preferences correlated positively with the health of the nation, which explained 50.4% of the variation among countries. The weakest preferences for femininity were found in Nepal and strongest in Japan. As high femininity in women is associated with lower success in competition for resources and lower dominance, it is possible that in harsher environments, men prefer cues to resource holding potential over high fecundity.

  • Received October 3, 2013.
  • Accepted April 1, 2014.
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