Masculinity in male faces is thought to be a sign of mate quality and is associated with measures of long-term health. Previous studies have demonstrated that women's masculinity preferences change across the menstrual cycle with women preferring more masculine men during phases of the menstrual cycle where fertility is highest (i.e. the late follicular phase). Given the hormonal correlates of such preferences and that these hormones change across the life span, we tested for differences in female masculinity preferences at different ages. We compared the masculinity preferences of peri-pubescent girls and young adult women (Study 1), circum-menopausal women reporting to either be pre- or post-menopause (Study 2), and a large sample of women across a wide range of ages (Study 3). In all three studies, preferences for masculinity in male faces were highest in women who were at a reproductively active age. Preferences for masculinity were lower when females were peri-pubescent, post-menopausal, or at ages corresponding to these groups. These data support the notion that masculinity in male faces is an important trait for reproductively relevant mate choice decisions. These data also highlight a shift in female visual preferences for men that is associated with important stages of the lifespan. Visual preferences appear to track important hormonal changes associated with age; as women pass puberty their preferences shift towards facial traits associated with mate quality and as women undergo menopause their preferences for such facial traits decrease. Overall, these results demonstrate the important role of reproductive status and support the notion that preferences for male faces are tied to reproductively relevant hormones.
Little, A. C., Saxton, T. K., Roberts, S. C., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Vukovic, J., Perrett, D. I., Feinberg, D. R., & Chenore, T. (2010). Women's preferences for masculinity in male faces are highest during reproductive age range and lower around puberty and post-menopause. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(6), 912-920. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.12.006