Skip to main content

Omitted evidence undermines sexual motives explanation for attractiveness bias

  • Marianne LaFrance (a1) and Alice H. Eagly (a2)

This commentary makes three points: (1) the existing evidence does not consistently favor the proposed sex difference in attractiveness preferences, nor the fitness-related outcomes of attractiveness; (2) the neglected association of perceived attractiveness and trustworthiness allowed the authors to incorrectly attribute many findings solely to attractiveness, and (3) the importance accorded attractiveness in mate preferences is culturally shaped and likely evolutionarily novel.

Hide All
Bzdok, D., Langner, R., Caspers, S., Kurth, F., Habel, V., Zilles, K., Laird, A. & Eickhoff, S. B. (2011) ALE meta-analysis on facial judgments of trustworthiness and attractiveness. Brain Structure and Function 215:209–23.
Chithambo, T. P. & Huey, S. J. (2013) Black/white differences in perceived weight and attractiveness among overweight women. Journal of Obesity 2013:320326.
Duarte, J., Siegel, S. & Young, L. (2012) Trust and credit: The role of appearance in peer-to-peer lending. Review of Financial Studies 25(8):2455–84.
Eastwick, P. W., Luchies, L. B., Finkel, E. J. & Hunt, L. L. (2014a) The predictive validity of ideal partner preferences: A review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 140:623–65.
Eastwick, P. W., Neff, L. A., Finkel, E. J., Luchies, L. B. & Hunt, L. L. (2014b) Is meta-analysis a foundation, or just a brick? Comment on Meltzer, McNulty, Jackson, and Karney (2014) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106:429–34.
Feingold, A. (1992b) Gender differences in mate selection preferences: A test of the parental investment model. Psychological Bulletin 112:125–39.
Gintis, H., van Schaik, C. & Boehm, C. (2015) Zoon politikon: The evolutionary origins of human political systems. Current Anthropology 56:327–53.
Hart, W., Albarracin, D., Eagly, A. H., Brechan, I., Lindberg, M. J. & Merrill, L. (2009) Feeling validated versus being correct: A meta-analysis of selective exposure to information. Psychological Bulletin 135:555–88.
Henderson, A. J., Holzleitner, I. J., Talamas, S. N. & Perrett, D. I. (2016) Perceptions of health from facial cues. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 13:371.
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J. & Norenzayan, A. (2010) The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33:6183.
Jokela, M. (2009) Physical attractiveness and reproductive success in humans: Evidence from the late 20th century United States. Evolution and Human Behavior 30:342–50.
Kaisler, R. E. & Leder, H. (2016) Trusting the looks of others: Gaze effects of faces in social settings. Perception 45(8):875892.
Ma, F., Xu, F. & Luo, X. (2015) Children's and adults' judgments of facial trustworthiness: The relationship to facial attractiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills 211:179–98.
Meltzer, A. L., McNulty, J. K., Jackson, G. & Karney, B. R. (2014) Sex differences in the implications of partner physical attractiveness for the trajectory of marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106:418–28.
Ohanian, R. (1991) The impact of celebrity spokespersons' perceived image on consumers' intention to purchase. Journal of Advertising Research 31:4654.
Oosterhof, N. N. & Todorov, A. (2008) The functional basis of face evaluation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105:11087–92.
Palmer, C. L. & Peterson, R. D. (2016) Halo effects and the attractiveness premium in perceptions of political expertise. American Politics Research 44:353–82.
Scott, I. M., Clark, A. P., Josephson, S. C., Boyette, A. H., Cuthill, I. C., Fried, R. L., Gibson, M. A., Hewlett, B. S., Jamieson, M., Jankowiak, W., Honey, P. L., Huang, Z., Liebert, M. A., Purzcyki, B. G., Shaver, J. H., Snodgrass, J., Sosis, R., Sugiyama, L. S., Swami, V., Yu, D. W., Zhaoi, Y. & Penton-Voak, I. S. (2014) Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionary novel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111:14388–93.
Selterman, D. F., Chagnon, E. & Mackinnon, S. P. (2015) Do women and men exhibit different preferences for mates? A replication of Eastwick and Finkel (2008). SAGE Open 2015:114.
Silva, A. S., Lummaa, V., Muller, U., Raymond, M. & Alvergne, A. (2012) Facial attractiveness and fertility in populations with low levels of modern birth control. Evolution and Human Behavior 33:491–98.
Sofer, C., Dotsch, R., Wigboldus, D. H. J. & Todorov, A. (2015) What is typical is good. The influence of face typicality on perceived trustworthiness. Psychological Science 26:3947.
Sorokowski, P., Kościński, K., Sorokowska, A. & Huanca, T. (2014) Preference for women's body mass and waist-to-hip ratio in Tsimane' men of the Bolivian Amazon: Biological and cultural determinants. PLoS ONE 9:e105468.
Sutherland, C. A., Oldmeadow, J. A., Santos, I. M., Towler, J., Michael, B. D. & Young, A. W. (2013) Social inferences from faces: Ambient images generate a three-dimensional model. Cognition 127:105–18.
van't Wout, M. & Sanfey, A. G. (2008) Friend or foe: The effect of implicit trustworthiness judgments in social decision-making. Cognition 108(3):796803.
Weeden, J. & Sabini, J. (2005) Physical attractiveness and health in Western societies: A review. Psychological Bulletin 131:635–53.
Zebrowitz, L. A. & Rhodes, G. (2004) Sensitivity to “bad genes” and the anomalous face overgeneralization effect: Cue validity, cue utilization, and accuracy in judging intelligence and health. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 28(3):167–85.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *