Pathogen avoidance mechanisms affect women’s preference for symmetrical male faces.

The current experiments tested the hypothesis that situational pathogen cues would increase mate preferences for facial symmetry—a characteristic thought to signal immunocompetence. Across 2 experiments, participants were primed with situational disease cues and were asked to select the more desirable of 2 virtually identical faces or nonsocial stimuli. In each case, one image of the pair had been altered to be highly symmetrical. Results of both experiments indicated that exposure to disease cues increased preference for symmetrical opposite sex targets, an effect that was relatively stronger among women than men (Experiment 2). No effects were observed for same-sex targets (Experiments 1 and 2) or nonsocial stimuli (Experiment 1). These experiments provide a conceptual replication of research reported by Little, DeBruine, and Jones (2011) and Young, Sacco, and Hugenberg (2011) and extend the literature on disease avoidance and mate preferences by offering new evidence that disease avoidance may be associated with stronger preference for facial symmetry in female perceivers than male perceivers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)