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There’s something about a manly face

Women in their fertile phase are more likely to fantasise about men with macho faces if their romantic partners are not quintessentially masculine, says a new study.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2011 00:32 IST

However, women with masculine-looking partners do not necessarily become more attracted to their partners, found the study by a team from the University of New Mexico and the University of Colorado.

The researchers also found that a man’s intelligence has no effect on the extent to which fertile, female partners fantasise about others. The lack of an observed “fertility effect” related to intelligence is puzzling, they said. The findings augment the emerging understanding of how human sexual selection evolved over time, and how the vestiges of that evolution are evident today.

A “masculine face” has a relatively pronounced chin, strong jaw, narrow eyes and well-defined brow. George Clooney fits this bill, said study author Steven Gangestad of the University of New Mexico. A less-masculine face, on the other hand, includes a less-pronounced jaw and wider eyes. But this does not mean that pretty boys are less attractive as life partners.

How rating changes

“When they rate men’s sexiness, in a sense, that’s when (women) show the shift,” Gangestad said. “If they rate men’s attractiveness as a long-term partner, then they don’t show it.” For their study, the team interviewed 66 couples, in which women’s ages ranged from 18 to 44 years. Their relationships ranged from one month to 20 years in length. Nine couples were married.

A host of studies has shown that women’s interest in men with masculine features, peaks during ovulation. But this study is the first to confirm that the effect occurs in real couples.

Evolutionary biologists have documented that, women, when most fertile, gravitate toward males with signs of good genetic quality. Masculine facial features suggest that a man is of good genetic quality. Rugged-looking jaws and eyebrows are signals of testosterone.

First Published: Jan 15, 2011 17:22 IST