Effects of exogenous testosterone and mating context on men's preferences for female facial femininity

Horm Behav. 2016 Sep:85:76-85. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.08.003. Epub 2016 Aug 7.


Correlational research suggests that men show greater attraction to feminine female faces when their testosterone (T) levels are high. Men's preferences for feminine faces also seem to vary as a function of relationship context (short versus long-term). However, the relationship between T and preferences for female facial femininity has yet to be tested experimentally. In the current paper, we report the results of two experiments examining the causal role of T in modulating preferences for facial femininity across both short and long-term mating contexts. Results of Experiment 1 (within-subject design, n=24) showed that participants significantly preferred feminized versus masculinized versions of women's faces. Further, participants showed a stronger preference for feminine faces in the short versus the long-term context after they received T, but not after they received placebo. Post-hoc analyses suggested that this effect was driven by a lower preference for feminine faces in the long-term context when on T relative to placebo, and this effect was found exclusively for men who received placebo on the first day of testing, and T on the second day of testing (i.e., Order x Drug x Mating context interaction). In Experiment 2 (between-subject design, n=93), men demonstrated a significant preference for feminized female faces in the short versus the long-term context after T, but not after placebo administration. Collectively, these findings provide the first causal evidence that T modulates men's preferences for facial femininity as a function of mating context.

Keywords: Facial preferences; Femininity; Hormones; Mate preferences; Mating; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Femininity*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Testosterone