The autumn years: age differences in preferences for sexually dimorphic faces

Chengyang Han, Xiangqian Li, Xiyue Chen, Xue Lei, Chuanjing Liao, Lingshan Zhang, Bingxin Li, Xian Peng, Edward R. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Life history theory proposes that it is adaptive for older people to shift investment away from reproductive effort (such as mating) to survivorship. However, it remains unclear whether the shift is also present at the psychological level. We investigated this question by comparing preferences for mate choice-relevant cues, sexually dimorphic facial images, between older (60 years and older, n = 92) and younger adults (18–40 years, n = 86). Results showed that older adults had significantly smaller preferences for sexually dimorphic faces of both sexes than young adults. Specifically, both older men and women showed no significant preferences for sexually dimorphic traits when judging opposite-sex faces, and smaller preferences for masculine male faces and feminine female faces when judging same-sex faces. Young adults generally showed strong preferences for masculine male faces and feminine female faces. In Study 2, we confirmed that the absent/reduced preferences in older adults for sexually dimorphic faces did not result from poor visual ability. The smaller preferences for sexually dimorphic facial cues in older adults compared to young adults suggest that older adults may shift away from mating-oriented psychology as they become less fertile.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Sexual Behaviour
Early online date17 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 17 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • sexual dimorphism
  • facial attractiveness
  • mate preferences
  • Chinese

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