Thursday, December 28, 2006

Masculine features can be threatening

Sharon Jayson:

That well-defined brow and strong chin are manly, yes, but new research published Wednesday shows that such features could be a turnoff because of subconscious decisions about personality based on looks.

The research in the academic journal Personal Relationships is based on online experiments in which 854 undergraduates saw digitally altered composite pictures of men's faces, with some adjusted to look more "masculine" and others to look more "feminine."

A more masculine face would have exaggerated brow ridges, a strong chin or slightly thinner lips. A more feminine face would have a smaller chin, smaller brow ridges, larger lips and possibly larger eyes, says Daniel Kruger, a University of Michigan social psychologist.

"People can make snap judgments of other people based on something that's superficial — just by the way someone's face looks," he says.

His work found that highly masculine faces were judged more likely to get into fights or cheat on their partners. The less masculine versions were thought to be better husbands and good with children. Both men and women chose less masculine faces as dates for their 25-year-old hypothetical daughters. And men selected the less masculine faces to accompany their girlfriends out of town.

Kruger says other studies have suggested a relationship between higher testosterone levels and increased risk of infidelity, violence and divorce in relationships. Testosterone measurement was not part of his study.

Related research published earlier this year used pictures of real men and measured testosterone levels via saliva samples. James Roney of the University of California-Santa Barbara and others at the University of Chicago found that women were able to gauge hormone levels and decide a male's suitability as a date or a mate by the photos.

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