Baby-lover or man's-man? Turns out women are more attracted to men when they see an interest in children etched in their face.
Researchers have found that women subconsciously read a man's face to determine if he has any interest in children. If he does, experts say, a woman is more likely to be attracted to him for a long-term relationship. However, if a man displays more masculinity than motherliness, she is more likely to be interested in only a short-term fling.
Apparently overall physical attractiveness doesn't necessarily get in the way of judging a man's long-term date-ability. "Our data suggest that men's interest in children predicts their long-term mate attractiveness even after we account for how physically attractive the women rated the men," said Dr. James Roney, study author and assistant professor at the University of California.
For the study, researchers measured the testosterone levels of male undergraduate students from a range of ethnic backgrounds. After, the men were presented with pairs of pictures, with one featuring a baby, the other an adult, and asked which they preferred. Five of the 39 men had no preference, however, the rest expressed a range of interests, some preferring the baby picture exclusively. These men were considered to have a high interest in children.
Then, 29 female undergraduate students were shown photos of each guy with a neutral facial expression and asked to rate him on whether he seemed to like children and his masculinity, physical attractiveness and kindness. Also, the women rated each man according to how interested she was in pursuing either a short-term or long-term relationship with him. The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Those men who were consistently rated the most masculine-looking were also those with the highest testosterone levels, but they weren't necessarily the men who showed no interest in children. Indeed, those men the women ranked as most attractive were those who expressed the most interest in children. And even though some of those not interested in children were ranked as physically attractive, they were also less likely to be seen as a long-term partner, leaving that desire for the men who appeared more child-loving.
"The research suggests that men's interest in children may be a relatively underappreciated influence on men's long-term mate attractiveness," said Roney.
However, just because a man looks like he's interested in children, it does not mean that he would necessarily make a good father, Roney warns. Ultimately, no matter what a woman reads on a guy's face, many factors play into choosing a mate.
"It is clear that women in real life make choices based on far more information than that provided by faces alone," he says.