There have been a lot of evolutionary psychology experiments that have tried to define both female and male attractiveness to the opposite sex, an indirect way to get at the nature of sexual selection in humans. A new study published in Behavioral Ecology reminds us that sexual selection is not the only process that has influenced our “signaling traits”. We are fundamentally social creatures, so mate selection may be secondary to selection on our social success. As such, social selection can also exert strong influence on traits that signal fitness. In this study, both men and women were shown to respond more strongly to the perceived dominance of men with deeper voices and more facial hair than to their perceived attractiveness (intriguingly, men and women showed no significant disagreement in their perceptions of either characteristic).
To me this kind of study reminds us that isolated investigations of physical attractiveness may fail to tell the whole story or — worse yet — fail to consider important interactions with attractiveness. These studies are meaningful because they isolate variables, but reduce a study down to one dimension of human perception and you risk missing the bigger picture of how humans make decisions. All social animals face selection pressure from a variety of sources, and we are the most social animals of all.
The post above was based on Behavioral Ecology “A lover or a fighter? Opposing sexual selection pressures on men’s vocal pitch and facial hair” (Saxton et al. 2015)
Image used above courtesy of janosch on Wikimedia Commons.A Minor Post, Articles, Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Communication, Evolutionary Psychology, Human Uniqueness, MSCI-362, The Evolution of Sex, Psychological Adaptation, Quantifying Costs and Benefits, Reputation, Sex and Reproduction, Sexual Competition, Sexual Selection