Re-evaluating the relationship between pathogen avoidance and preferences for facial symmetry and sexual dimorphism: a registered report

Tybur, J. M., Fan, L., Jones, B. C. , Holzleitner, I. J. , Lee, A. J. and DeBruine, L. M. (2022) Re-evaluating the relationship between pathogen avoidance and preferences for facial symmetry and sexual dimorphism: a registered report. Evolution and Human Behavior, 43(3), pp. 212-223. (doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2022.01.003)

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Over the past decade, a small literature has tested how trait-level pathogen-avoidance motives (e.g., disgust sensitivity) and exposure to pathogen cues relate to preferences for facial symmetry and sexual dimorphism. Results have largely been interpreted as suggesting that the behavioral immune system influences preferences for these features in potential mates. However, findings are limited by small sample sizes among studies reporting supportive evidence, the use of small stimulus sets to assess preferences for symmetry and dimorphism, and design features that render implications for theory ambiguous (namely, largely only investigating women's preferences for male faces). Using a sample of 954 White young adult UK participants and a pool of 100 White young adult stimuli, the current registered report applied a standard two-alternative forced-choice approach to evaluate both men's and women's preferences for both facial symmetry and dimorphism in both same- and opposite-sex targets. Participants were randomly assigned to either a pathogen prime or a control prime, and they completed instruments assessing individual differences in pathogen avoidance (disgust sensitivity and contamination sensitivity). Results revealed overall preferences for both facial symmetry and dimorphism. However, they did not reveal a relation between these preferences and disgust sensitivity or contamination sensitivity, nor did they reveal differences in these preferences across control and pathogen prime conditions. Null results of pathogen-avoidance variables were consistent across participant sex, target sex, and interactions between participant sex and target sex. Overall, findings cast doubt on the hypothesis that pathogen-avoidance motives influence preferences for facial symmetry or dimorphism.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was supported by Horizon 2020 European Research Council Grant StG-2015 680002-HBIS.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lee, Dr Anthony and Jones, Professor Benedict and DeBruine, Professor Lisa and Holzleitner, Dr Iris
Authors: Tybur, J. M., Fan, L., Jones, B. C., Holzleitner, I. J., Lee, A. J., and DeBruine, L. M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Evolution and Human Behavior
ISSN (Online):1879-0607
Published Online:21 February 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Evolution and Human Behavior 43(3): 212-223
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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