Adolescents' preferences for sexual dimorphism are influenced by relative exposure to male and female faces

Tamsin K. Saxton, Anthony C. Little, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones, S. Craig Roberts

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Exposure to a particular population of faces can increase ratings of the normality and attractiveness of similar-looking faces. Such exposure can also refine the perceived boundaries of that face population, such that other faces are more readily perceived as dissimilar. We predicted that relatively less exposure to opposite-sex faces, as experienced by children at single-sex compared with mixed-sex schools, would decrease ratings of the attractiveness of sexual dimorphism in opposite-sex faces (that is, boys at single-sex schools would show a decreased preference for feminised faces, and girls at single-sex schools would show a decreased preference for masculinised faces). Consistent with this prediction, girls at single-sex compared with mixed-sex schools demonstrated significantly stronger preferences for facial femininity in both male and female faces. Boys at single-sex compared with mixed-sex schools demonstrated marginally stronger preferences for facial masculinity in male faces, but did not differ in their ratings of female faces. These effects were attenuated among some single-sex school pupils by the presence of adolescent opposite-sex siblings. These data add to the evidence that long-term exposure to a particular face population can influence judgements of other faces, and contribute to our understanding of the factors leading to individual differences in face preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-868
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • facial attractiveness
  • facial sexual dimorphism
  • femininity
  • individual differences
  • masculinity
  • visual adaptation

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