Sonja Windhager, Katrin Schaefer and Bernhard Fink

Geometric morphometrics of male facial shape in relation to physical strength and perceived attractiveness, dominance, and masculinity

American Journal of Human Biology

  Objectives: Evolutionary psychologists claim that women have adaptive preferences for specific male physical traits. Physical strength may be one of those traits, because recent research suggests that women rate faces of physically strong men as more masculine, dominant, and attractive. Yet, previous research has been limited in its ability to statistically map specific male facial shapes and features to corresponding physical measures (e.g., strength) and ratings (e.g., attractiveness). Methods: The association of handgrip strength (together with measures of shoulder width, body height, and body fat) and women's ratings of male faces (concerning dominance, masculinity, and attractiveness) were studied in a sample of 26 Caucasian men (aged 18–32 years). Geometric morphometrics was used to statistically assess the covariation of male facial shape with these measures. Statistical results were visualized with thin-plate spline deformation grids along with image unwarping and image averaging. Results: Handgrip strength together with shoulder width, body fat, dominance, and masculinity loaded positively on the first dimension of covariation with facial shape (explaining 72.6%, P < 0.05). These measures were related to rounder faces with wider eyebrows and a prominent jaw outline while highly attractive and taller men had longer, narrower jaws and wider/fuller lips.   Conclusions: Male physical strength was more strongly associated with changes in face shape that relate to perceived masculinity and dominance than to attractiveness. Our study adds to the growing evidence that attractiveness and dominance/masculinity may reflect different aspects of male mate quality.