Women who see men as a danger to their children prefer males with more feminine faces, Fife researchers have found.
A study by scientists at the University of St Andrews is the first to find that women’s face preferences in males are influenced by experiences and perceptions of violence.
It found that those who saw males as potential aggressors to their children preferred less masculine facial features.
The research measured preferences of men and women from Bogota, the capital city of Colombia which is one of the most violent nations in the world.
It was carried out by Martha Lucia Borras-Guevara, Dr Carlota Batres and Professor David Perrett, of the university’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience Perception Lab, and published this week in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.
Ms Borras-Guevara said: “We found that men and women who strongly believed that men are dangerous to their children preferred less masculine male faces, although this effect was only significant for women.
“We might have only found a significant effect for women’s preferences since women, relative to men, invest more time and energy in their offspring, hence there would be a strong selective pressure to recognise any facial cues in men that relate to a violent or dangerous disposition.”
Professor Perrett, who runs the Perception Lab, said: “These findings hint at different effects of domestic violence and/or violence outside the home on masculinity preferences.
“Moreover, these preferences may reflect women’s strategy to avoid male violence, demonstrating that exposure to violence influences who we find attractive.”