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Do men’s faces really signal heritable immunocompetence?

Scott, I.M.L. and Clark, A.P. and Boothroyd, L.G. and Penton-Voak, I.S. (2013) 'Do men’s faces really signal heritable immunocompetence?', Behavioral ecology., 24 (3). pp. 579-589.

Abstract

In the literature on human mate choice, masculine facial morphology is often proposed to be an intersexual signal of heritable immunocompetence, and hence an important component of men’s attractiveness. This hypothesis has received considerable research attention, and is increasingly treated as plausible and well supported. In this article, we propose that the strength of the evidence for the immunocompetence hypothesis is somewhat overstated, and that a number of difficulties have been under-acknowledged. Such difficulties include (1) the tentative nature of the evidence regarding masculinity and disease in humans, (2) the complex and uncertain picture emerging from the animal literature on sexual ornaments and immunity, (3) the absence of consistent, cross-cultural support for the predictions of the immunocompetence hypothesis regarding preferences for masculinized stimuli, and (4) evidence that facial masculinity contributes very little, if anything, to overall attractiveness in real men. Furthermore, alternative explanations for patterns of preferences, in particular the proposal that masculinity is primarily an intrasexual signal, have been neglected. We suggest that immunocompetence perspectives on masculinity, whilst appealing in many ways, should still be regarded as speculative, and that other perspectives–and other traits–should be the subject of greater attention for researchers studying human mate preferences.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Attractiveness, Competition, Faces, Female choice, Humans, Immunocompetence, Males, Masculinity, Mate Preferences, Testosterone.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ars092
Publisher statement:© The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. All rights reserved. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:29 April 2014
Date of first online publication:May 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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