April 10, 2008
People's attitudes to sexual relationships can be given away by just the look of their face, say researchers, who found that men and women look for opposites when it comes to relationships.
Researchers said that men generally preferred women they perceive are open to short-term sexual relationships, with women after longer-term matches.
The study, which was led by Durham University, reviewed 700 heterosexual participants.
The analysis of the study revealed that young men and women look for complete opposites when it comes to relationships with the other sex.
The scientists say the research, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, shows people can use their perceptions to make more informed partner selection depending on the type of relationship they are pursuing.
In the study, the participants were asked to judge the attractiveness and attitudes to sex of the opposite sex from their facial photographs. These perceptual judgments were then compared with the actual attitudes and behaviours of the individuals in the photographs, which had been determined through a detailed questionnaire. The people in the photographs were all in their early 20s.
The experiments found that the men and women taking part could generally judge from photographs who would be more interested in a short-term sexual relationship. In the first study sample of 153 participants, 72 per cent of people correctly identified the attitudes from photographs more than half of the time. However, further questioning showed that the participants were not always confident in their judgments.
The research also found that women who were open to short-term sexual relationships were usually seen by others as more attractive -- although researchers can not determine precisely why without further investigation. The men who were most open to casual sex were generally perceived as being more masculine-looking, with facial features including squarer jaws, larger nose and smaller eyes. These findings support previous research carried out by the Durham team, which found that women see masculine men as more likely to be unfaithful and as worse parents.
Lead author Dr Lynda Boothroyd from Durham University's Psychology Department said: "Our results suggest that although some people can judge the sexual strategy of others simply from looking at their face, people are not always sure about their judgments possibly because the cues are very subtle. Yet preferences for different types of face were actually quite strong."
"This shows that these initial impressions may be part of how we assess potential mates -- or potential rivals -- when we first meet them. These will then give way over time to more in depth knowledge of that person, as you get to know them better, and may change with age," she added.
The study is published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.