Victor S Johnston, Rebecca Hagel, Melissa Franklin, Bernhard Fink, and Karl Grammer (2001)

Male facial attractiveness: Evidence for hormone-mediated adaptive design

Evolution and Human Behavior, 22(4):251-267.

Experimenters examining male facial attractiveness have concluded that the attractive male face is (1) an average male face, (2) a masculinized male face, or (3) a feminized male face. Others have proposed that symmetry, hormone markers, and the menstrual phase of the observer are important variables that influence male attractiveness. This study was designed to resolve these issues by examining the facial preferences of 42 female volunteers at two different phases of their menstrual cycle. Preferences were measured using a 40-s QuickTime movie (1200 frames) that was designed to systematically modify a facial image from an extreme male to an extreme female configuration. The results indicate that females exhibit (1) a preference for a male face on the masculine side of average, (2) a shift toward a more masculine male face preference during the high-risk phase of their menstrual cycle, and (3) no shift in other facial preferences. An examination of individual differences revealed that women who scored low on a “masculinity” test (1) showed a larger menstrual shift, (2) had lower self-esteem, and (3) differed in their choice of male faces for dominance and short-term mates. The results are interpreted as support for a hormonal theory of facial attractiveness whereby perceived beauty depends on an interaction between displayed hormone markers and the hormonal state of the viewer.