Adiposity, compared with masculinity, serves as a more valid cue to immunocompetence in human mate choice

M. J. Rantala, V. Coetzee, F. R. Moore, I. Skrinda, S. Kecko, T. Krama, I. Kivleniece, I. Krams
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, November 2012, Royal Society Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2495

Facial cues to immunity

What is it about?

Masculine features – a strong jaw line and prominent brow – are generally thought to indicate that a man has a strong immune system. We tested this assumption in a group of Latvian men using a direct measure of immune response. The men's weight served as a better indicator of the relationship between immune response and attractiveness than masculinity did. It is therefore more likely that women use weight, rather than masculinity, in their subconscious judgements of a men's immunity.

Why is it important?

The hypothesis that masculinity serves as the predominant cue to immunocompetence in human mate choice underpins a large literature on mate choice preferences. To our knowledge, this is the first study to test the role of masculinity as a cue to immunocompetence using a direct measure of immunity. We show that adiposity is a more important cue to immunocompetence in human mate choice compared to masculinity. The findings provide new insight into the immunocompetence handicap hypothesis.

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The following have contributed to this page: Vinet Coetzee