Women's estradiol predicts preference for facial cues of men's testosterone

Horm Behav. 2008 Jan;53(1):14-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.09.008. Epub 2007 Sep 20.


A growing body of research has shown that women express stronger attraction to more masculine traits when they are tested near ovulation than when tested during other times in the menstrual cycle. Although these effects have been interpreted as increased preferences for markers of elevated testosterone during times in the cycle when conception is most likely, no previous studies have directly demonstrated that women express stronger attraction to higher testosterone men at different times in the cycle. In addition, little research has addressed which hormonal or other physiological mechanisms may regulate temporal shifts in women's attractiveness judgments. In this research, we demonstrate that women with higher estradiol concentrations exhibit stronger preferences for the faces of men with higher testosterone concentrations, and that women's testosterone preference and estradiol curves track one another across days of the cycle. The findings are the first direct demonstration in humans that hormone concentrations in one sex are associated with attraction to cues of hormonal status in the opposite sex. The results support a functional role for estradiol in calibrating women's mating psychology to indices of their current fertility, analogous to similar processes that have been documented in nonhuman species. A strong correlation between estradiol and testosterone preference specifically during the luteal phase further suggests that women's mate preferences may track their fertility between different cycles in addition to being calibrated to the timing of ovulation within individual cycles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Estradiol / metabolism*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Social Perception*
  • Testosterone / metabolism*


  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol