Wednesday, 12 Nov, 2008 Science

Fertile Women Dislike Beautiful Faces, Study Showed


A pretty face might seem to attract everyone. However, scientists discovered that fertile women rate women with attractive looks much lower than women who entered menopause. It must be all about competition, researchers say.

The study carried out by scientists at Aberdeen University, UK, attempted to analyze how fertility alters competition for mates within sexes. It would be interesting to note that previously scientists performed studies aimed to analyze the way fertility influenced women's preferences for men's faces, bodies and voices.

The study's lead researcher Benedict Jones, who works as a psychologist at Aberdeen University, UK, and his team, analyzed 97 pre- and post- menopausal middle-aged women, who were shown images of men and women. Pictures were digitally manipulated, adding more masculine or feminine features. The software used by researchers systematically enhances male characteristics, such as for example wide jaw and heavy brow. Among female features the software uses such attributes as wider eyes and eyebrows that are somewhat arched.

"It's not going into Photoshop and mucking about to make the jaw a few pixels wider and the eyes a few pixels bigger," said Jones.

Women aged between 40 and 64 then had to choose between masculinized and feminized types of 40 men and women. Both, menopausal and pre-menopausal women picked men with more masculine features. However, the choices split when women were shown pictures of other women. Women of childbearing age have chosen images of women with less attractive faces while the other category of women picked images of women with more attractive appearance.

Scientists say that the best explanation for this is competition. "It's quite well established that as women go through menopause they shift from a mating-oriented mindset to more family-oriented mindset," said the lead researcher.

According to Mark Prokosch, an evolutionary psychologist at Elon University in North Carolina, this study is an important first step in understanding how fertility influences women. At the same time Prokosch is not fully convinced that rating other women represents the most objective method to capture sexual rivalry among women.

"It's still a question of whether rating a face as being less attractive equates to this heightened sense of competition," said the psychologist.

A slightly simplified version of the software used by the researchers in their study is available here .

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