For gay and straight men, gauging facial attraction appears to operate similarly

Oct 29, 2009
Examples of masculinized (right) and feminized (left) versions of a male face. A new study from a researcher at Harvard University finds that gay men are most attracted to the most masculine-faced men, while straight men prefer the most feminine-faced women. Courtesy of Aaron Glassenberg

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study from a researcher at Harvard University finds that gay men are most attracted to the most masculine-faced men, while straight men prefer the most feminine-faced women.

The findings suggest that regardless of sexual orientation, men’s brains are wired for attraction to sexually dimorphic faces — those with facial features that are most synonymous with gender.

The research is published online in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, and was led by Aaron Glassenberg, while completing his master’s degree in the Department of Psychology at Harvard. Glassenberg is a doctoral student in organizational behavior in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. Glassenberg’s co-authors are David Feinberg of McMaster University in Ontario, Benedict Jones and Lisa DeBruine of the University of Aberdeen, and Anthony Little of the University of Stirling, both in Scotland.

“Our work showed that found highly masculine male faces to be significantly more attractive than feminine male faces. Also, the types of male faces that gay men found attractive generally did not mirror the types of faces that straight women found attractive, on average,” says Glassenberg. “Men, gay or straight, prefer high sexual dimorphism in the faces of the sex that they are attracted to. Gay men and straight men did not agree on the types of male faces they considered attractive.”

The study is the first to examine the facial feature preferences of gay men and lesbian women. Women’s preferences are more complex than men’s, as indicated by prior research demonstrating that ovulation, contraceptive use, self-perceived attractiveness, and sex drive all affect face preference. In this particular study, straight women preferred more masculine-faced men than lesbian women, while lesbians preferred slightly more masculine female faces than straight women or men.

Participants viewed images of faces that were digitally manipulated to be more masculine or feminine, and then indicated which face they considered more attractive. The study was conducted online, and included more than 900 men and women.

Sexually dimorphic features in male faces include a broad jaw, broad forehead, and more pronounced brow ridge. A sexually dimorphic female face has a more tapered chin, larger lips, and a narrower forehead.

Prior research has also shown that women prefer more masculine male faces when ovulating, indicating an evolutionary function for facial attraction. Men who have that are higher in sexual dimorphism (masculinity) have been shown to have better health and dominance but lower investment in offspring.

Although it is difficult to make substantial evolutionary claims from this study, Glassenberg’s work supports the idea that male attraction operates differently from female attraction, regardless of .

Provided by Harvard University (news : web)

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User comments : 3

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acarrilho
Oct 29, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
pseudophonist
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2009
#acarrilho : Possibly this was intuitively correct, however it still warrants investigation if only to check the possiblity that the hypothesis was wrong.
acarrilho
1 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2009
If it didn't cost anything, sure. Otherwise, it's an insult to anyone who's depending on actual scientific advance to be made on something else. I can think of quite a few examples...
atella
5 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2009
Are you aware that there are over 300 papers on facial attractiveness for heterosexuals? Do you know how many tens of thousands of papers don't cure major diseases & are just theoretical arguments between scholars that go on for decades and cost millions in salaries? Why is the issue of "cost" in a simple study like this such a problem? I can't imagine it cost that much - but what is the problem if it did? Is it because it's about gay people? Not worth studying for you? You don't realize that something fundamental about how attraction works was learned here? Well... perhaps it went above your head. I don't think it was intuitively correct either. The intuitive answer would be that gay men prefer what women prefer (they do like men, don't they?

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