Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Evolutionary motivators: male and female differences in rating facial attractiveness


Chelsea Cowley, Sylvana Insua-Rieger, Paige Vaughn


  • David Hardy, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Loyola Marymount University
  • Larry Bernard, Professor of Psychology, Loyola Marymount University

Research supports evolutionary factors of motivation (Bernard, 2012). Eight evolutionary motivators (altruism, appearance, commitment, legacy, physical fitness, wealth, social exchange, and mental) were examined in relation to ratings of facial attractiveness. Each motive was independently examined, with motive strength (high/positive and low/negative) and gender as independent variables, and ratings of facial attractiveness as the dependent variable. We conducted eight 2 x 3 mixed-model ANOVAs, one per motivator, where gender was a between-subjects factor and motive strength was a within-subjects factor. In a computer-based task, participants (36 male and 37 female LMU undergraduates) viewed photos of faces of the opposite sex. Participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of 24 faces on a scale of one (“very unattractive”) to ten (“very attractive”). Before each face came on-screen, each participant was primed for one of three experimental conditions by reading a statement: either a low/negative condition (e.g., a statement indicating low physical fitness of the subject of the photo), a high/positive condition (e.g., a statement indicating high physical fitness), or a control condition (“No description available”). Per motive, each photo was presented under all conditions, but each participant saw each photo only once. Results showed main (gender-neutral) effects for five evolutionary motivators (mental, commitment, altruism, social exchange, and legacy), with p values <.01, indicating higher attractiveness ratings in the high motive strength condition. These findings reinforce the general viability of these evolutionary motivators. We found a main effect of gender in the motives altruism (F=23.77, p<.01), social exchange (F=9.58, p<.01), and physical fitness (F=19.70, p<.01). Thus, female participants provided significantly lower attractiveness ratings for these motives than did men, supporting the extent idea that women are more discriminating in mate selection. However, these three motivating factors were irrelevant to women’s perceptions of male attractiveness, as indicated by the lack of significant interactions.

Presented by:

Sylvana Insua-Rieger


Saturday, November 17, 2012




Broome Library

Presentation Type:

Poster Presentation