The eye wants what the heart wants: Female face preferences track partner personality preferences

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Description: Replicating prior findings that women prefer male faces with feminine shape but masculine reflectance, we show that these preferences reflect women’s preferences for feminine (vs. masculine) personality traits in a partner. In the study, young heterosexual women reported their preferences for personality traits in a partner, and rated male faces – manipulated on masculinity/femininity – on stereotypically masculine (e.g., dominance) and feminine traits (e.g., warmth) and on attractiveness. Masculine shape and reflectance increased perceptions of masculine traits, but had different effects on perceptions of feminine traits and attractiveness. While masculine shape decreased perceptions of both feminine traits and attractiveness, masculine reflectance increased perceptions of attractiveness and to a weaker extent of feminine traits. These findings suggest the effects of sexual dimorphism on attractiveness are mediated by the personality trait judgments elicited by dimorphic characteristics. Finally, the women’s idiosyncratic rankings of preferred personality traits revealed that they found male faces attractive to the extent that these faces elicited their preferred personality traits. In sum, the findings suggest that women’s preferences for male faces are determined by their preferences for personality traits rather than by the same dimorphic characteristics.

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