Princeton University Library Catalog

The Role of Personality Preference and Perceptions in Explaining Female Attraction to Feminine Shape and Masculine Reflectance in Male Faces

Grant-Villegas, Natalie [Browse]
Senior thesis
Todorov, Alexander [Browse]
Kastner, Sabine [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year:
62 pages
Summary note:
This study sought to explain the unexpected pattern of female facial attraction found by Said and Todorov (2011), in which women are attracted to feminine shape and masculine reflectance in male faces. Sexually dimorphic facial shape and reflectance were predicted to have dissociated effects on personality judgments, such that changes in facial reflectance masculinity or femininity would have relatively little influence over personality attributions, compared to changes in the sexual dimorphism of facial shape. For instance, increasing the femininity of facial shape would significantly increase the perception of stereotypically feminine personality traits in male faces, but increasing the femininity of facial reflectance would not. By using computer-generated male face images in which masculine shape and reflectance vary independently, this study determined how changes in these facial dimensions influence female judgments of personality and attractiveness in these faces. Furthermore, this study tested a secondary hypothesis, using responses to a personality preference questionnaire, that the most highly valued personality traits in male mates are communal traits, and that the relative value individuals attribute to valuable personality traits drives a positive correlation between the perception of valued personality traits in a face and the perception of facial attractiveness. The results of this experiment confirm these hypotheses, and propose that women are attracted to feminine shape because they strongly perceive the personality traits they value in feminine facial shapes, but do not perceive them as strongly, if at all, in feminine facial reflectance. Interestingly, masculine facial reflectance was found to increase the perception of communal traits, although this effect was very small. Considering the results of this study in light of the existing literature on evolutionary psychology and mate selection, it appears that feminine facial shape may be attractive because it is a primary cue for socially valuable personality traits that may relate to parenting quality. Masculine facial reflectance may be attractive in male faces because masculinity signals biological mate quality in men, but facial reflectance does not strongly elicit personality judgments, such as the negative personality judgments signaled by masculine shape cues. Furthermore, what little effect facial reflectance masculinity has on personality attributions appears to further enhance its attractiveness, in increasing judgments of the most valued personality traits in male mates.