London: Do you think women tend to prefer a particular type of man when they are fertile? If you think so, nothing could be further from the truth as a new study says that women's perceptions of male attractiveness do not vary according to their hormone levels.
These findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, run counter to the common assumption that sexual selection pressures lead women to prefer more masculine mates, who supposedly have greater genetic "fitness," when they are most fertile and most likely to conceive. "We found no evidence that changes in hormone levels influence the type of men women find attractive," said lead researcher Benedict Jones of the University of Glasgow in Britain.
"This study is noteworthy for its scale and scope -- previous studies typically examined small samples of women using limited measures," Jones explained. "With much larger sample sizes and direct measures of hormonal status, we were not able to replicate effects of hormones on women's preferences for masculine faces," Jones said.
To address the limitations of previous studies, the researchers recruited nearly 600 heterosexual women to participate in a series of weekly test sessions. In each session, the participants reported whether they were currently in a romantic relationship and whether they were currently using hormonal contraceptives.
In each face-preference task, the participants saw 10 pairs of male faces and selected the face in each pair that they found more attractive, rating how strong their preference was. The two faces in each pair were digitally altered versions of the same photo -- one face was altered to have somewhat feminised features and the other was altered to have somewhat masculinised features. As expected, women generally rated the masculinised faces as more attractive than the feminised faces.
Preference for the more masculinised faces was also slightly stronger when women judged attractiveness in the context of a short-term relationship as opposed to a long-term relationship.
However, there was no evidence that women's preferences varied according to levels of fertility-related hormones, such as estradiol and progesterone. There was also no association between attractiveness judgments and levels of other potentially influential hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, the study said.