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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2010 Jun;36(3):751-8. doi: 10.1037/a0016457.

Are attractive men's faces masculine or feminine? The importance of controlling confounds in face stimuli.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom AB24 3FX. mail:


Women's preferences for male masculinity are highly variable. Although many researchers explain this variability as reflecting systematic individual differences in how women resolve the tradeoff between the costs and benefits of choosing a masculine partner, others suggest that methodological differences between studies are responsible. A recent study found general femininity preferences for judgments of faces that were manipulated in sexual dimorphism of shape but general masculinity preferences for judgments of faces that were based on perceived masculinity. Using the original stimuli, we replicated these previous results but found equivalent general femininity preferences for both types of faces when nonface confounds in the stimuli (e.g. hairstyle) were eliminated through masking. We conclude that care must be taken to control potential confounds in stimuli and that the influence of nonface cues on preferences for facial masculinity deserves further study.

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