Cross-cultural effects of color, but not morphological masculinity, on perceived attractiveness of men's faces

Ian D. Stephen*, Isabel M L Scott, Vinet Coetzee, Nicholas Pound, David I. Perrett, Ian S. Penton-Voak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Much attractiveness research has focused on face shape. The role of masculinity (which for adults is thought to be a relatively stable shape cue to developmental testosterone levels) in male facial attractiveness has been examined, with mixed results. Recent work on the perception of skin color (a more variable cue to current health status) indicates that increased skin redness, yellowness, and lightness enhance apparent health. It has been suggested that stable cues such as masculinity may be less important to attractiveness judgments than short-term, more variable health cues. We examined associations between male facial attractiveness, masculinity, and skin color in African and Caucasian populations. Masculinity was not found to be associated with attractiveness in either ethnic group. However, skin color was found to be an important predictor of attractiveness judgments, particularly for own-ethnicity faces. Our results suggest that more plastic health cues, such as skin color, are more important than developmental cues such as masculinity. Further, unfamiliarity with natural skin color variation in other ethnic groups may limit observers' ability to utilize these color cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-267
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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