People read a surprising amount into our faces, just from one glance.
Men who have large noses, square jaws and small eyes, are apparently telling the world they prefer short-term relationships, research finds.
Women with larger lips and wide eyes are sending the same short-term relationship signal — whether they like it or not.
The conclusions come from a study in which people were shown faces and asked to guess their attitudes to:
- Short-term relationships,
- one-night stands,
- and sex without love.
Incredibly, 72% accurately identified the sexual attitudes of men and women just from photos of their faces.
Dr Lynda Boothroyd, the study’s first author, said:
“Our results suggest that although some people can judge the sexual strategy of others simply from looking at their face, people are not always sure about their judgements possibly because the cues are very subtle.
Yet preferences for different types of face were actually quite strong.
This shows that these initial impressions may be part of how we assess potential mates – or potential rivals – when we first meet them.
These will then give way over time to more in depth knowledge of that person, as you get to know them better, and may change with age.”
Men with a square jaw, larger nose and small eyes are signalling higher masculinity.
Women have a tendency to avoid men who look too masculine in preference for those who look like a better bet for a long-term relationship.
Men, meanwhile, have a tendency to go for women who look like they might prefer a short-term relationship.
Dr Ben Jones, one of the study’s authors, said:
“Lots of previous studies have shown that people can judge a lot about a person from their face, including things like health and even some personality traits like introversion, but this really is the first study to show that people are also sensitive to subtle facial signals about the type of romantic relationships that others might enjoy.”
Professor David Perrett, another study co-author, cautioned:
“While faces do hold cues to sexual attitudes, men should not presume any kind of relationship is wanted from appearance alone since women’s choice is what matters.
Indeed most women found promiscuous-looking guys unattractive for both short and long-term relationships.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior (Boothroyd et al., 2009).