AC Little, J Connely, DR Feinberg, BC Jones & SC Roberts (2011). Human preference for masculinity differs according to context in faces, bodies, voices, and smell. Behavioral Ecology. 22(4): 862-868. PDF
Sexual dimorphism is important in mate choice in many species and can be appraised via multiple traits in any one individual. Thus, one question that arises is whether sexual dimorphism in different traits influences preferences consistently. Here we examined human preferences for masculinity/femininity in different types of stimuli. For face and body stimuli, images were manipulated to be more or less masculine using computer graphic techniques. Voice stimuli were made more or less masculine by manipulating pitch. For smell, we used variation amongst male aftershaves as a proxy for manipulating masculinity of real male smell and used relatively masculine/feminine odours. For women, we found that preferences for more masculine stimuli were greater for short- term than for long-term relationships across all stimuli types. Further analyses revealed consistency in preferences for masculinity across stimuli types, at least for short-term judgements, whereby women with preferences for masculinity in one domain also had preferences for masculinity in the other domains. For men, we found that preferences for more feminine stimuli were greater for short-term than for long-term judgements across face and voice stimuli while the reverse was true for body stimuli. Further analyses revealed consistency in preferences for masculinity across stimuli types for long-term judgments, whereby men with preferences for femininity in one domain also had preferences for femininity in the other domains. These data suggest that masculinity/femininity as a trait may be assessed via different modalities and that masculinity/femininity in the different modalities might be representing a single underlying quality in individuals.