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Women can predict a man's attitude towards sex based on the shape of his face

[Nov 29, 2022: Staff Writer, Macquarie University]

A pair of researchers at Macquarie University has found that women are able to accurately gauge a man's interest in casual sexual relationships by noting the shape of his face. In their paper published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Joseph Antar and Ian Stephen describe their study, which involved volunteer questionnaires.

The global pandemic has had a tremendous impact on people around the world. This study focuses on the impact the pandemic has had on sociosexuality, which is the degree of openness people have to casual sex.


Some research has suggested that women have become far less open to such relationships, while men have remained largely unchanged. The conversation eventually led to whether men and women can tell by looking at someone if they are more or less open to casual sex. Intrigued by the idea, the researchers set up and carried out a study involving volunteers as a way to find out.

The researchers administered a sociosexuality questionnaire to 103 young people. The questionnaire was designed to measure how open a person is to having a casual sexual relationship (during non-pandemic times).


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Volunteers were also photographed; the researchers then asked 65 different volunteers to look at the pictures and to make guesses regarding the subject's willingness to engage in a casual sexual relationship.

They found that the women were able to accurately match the sociosexuality of the males in the pictures to their scores on the questionnaires they had taken. They were able to tell if a man was looking for casual sex rather than a long-term relationship, just by looking at his face. For the men, it was a different story. While most of them thought they would be able to tell, they actually did no better than if had they chosen randomly.


“This surprised us,” Ian D. Stephen, study author and an associate professor of psychology at Macquarie University, said in a statement. “The ability to make these judgements would also be really useful to men who are trying to judge who might be interested in short-term uncommitted relationships, and who might be more interested in something longer-term and more serious.”

Average faces of the men who were least (left) and most (right) open to casual, short-term connections, which women were able to determine. (CREDIT: Ian D Stephen)

To affirm this discovery, participants were also presented with composites of faces of people with more unrestricted sociosexuality, as well as composites of faces of individuals with more restricted sociosexuality. The participants were asked to guess their attitude toward casual sex and, once again, they were able to guess the more unrestricted sociosexuality male, but not female.


The researchers also found men who were open to casual sex were closely associated with particular facial features, namely longer faces, higher foreheads, longer noses, and larger eyes. The reason behind this link is not certain, but the researchers speculate it might have something to do with testosterone levels.

Average faces of the women who were least (left) and most (right) open to casual, short-term connections, although men found it difficult to determine. (CREDIT: Ian D Stephen)

“We think this points to a role for testosterone,” explained Joe Antar, study co-author from Macquarie University.


“Higher levels of testosterone are associated with more masculine-looking facial features, and with more male-typical behaviour like interest in short-term, uncommitted relationships. Because testosterone plays a much smaller role in female development, this would also explain why the information about relationship intention does not appear to be present in women’s faces," Antar continued.

Extended forced choice testing program as used in Sample 1b displaying the Male Batch 1 pair composite images of restricted (left) and unrestricted (right) individuals. In Sample 1a, a similar program was used with the labels next to the buttons. (CREDIT: Evolution and Human Behavior)

"But we need to do more research to know for sure,” he added.


As mentioned, there are a few more caveats to consider. First of all, the sample size was on the small side (around 100 people) and all participants were white and presumably heterosexual, which is not representative of the wider population.

For more social science stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by Macquarie University. Content may be edited for style and length.


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