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Horm Behav. 2011 Nov;60(5):681-90. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.09.004. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Testosterone-mediated sex differences in the face shape during adolescence: subjective impressions and objective features.

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Rotman Research Institute, University of Toronto, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6A 2E1.


Sex identification of a face is essential for social cognition. Still, perceptual cues indicating the sex of a face, and mechanisms underlying their development, remain poorly understood. Previously, our group described objective age- and sex-related differences in faces of healthy male and female adolescents (12-18 years of age), as derived from magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the adolescents' heads. In this study, we presented these adolescent faces to 60 female raters to determine which facial features most reliably predicted subjective sex identification. Identification accuracy correlated highly with specific MRI-derived facial features (e.g. broader forehead, chin, jaw, and nose). Facial features that most reliably cued male identity were associated with plasma levels of testosterone (above and beyond age). Perceptible sex differences in face shape are thus associated with specific facial features whose emergence may be, in part, driven by testosterone.

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