Download single copies of my first-authored papers for personal use. Papers I've co-authored can usually be found on my collaborators' sites.

in press

Pavela Banai, I., Burriss, R. P., & Šimić, N. (in press). Voice changes across the menstrual cycle in response to masculinized and feminized man and woman. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. View paper at publisher's website

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Objective Research has demonstrated that men prefer women’s voices with higher pitch and that women’s voices recorded at high compared to low fertility phases of the menstrual cycle are rated as more attractive. These fndings suggest that voice conveys information relevant to reproductive success. Because voice attractiveness is higher during the high fertility phase and voice pitch positively predicts attractiveness ratings, it has been hypothesized that cyclical changes in vocal attractiveness are driven by changes in voice pitch. However, attempts to detect acoustic changes have produced mixed results. With the higher degree of ecological validity achieved by including social context (simulated interactions with men and women) and by recording voice in the three phases of menstrual cycles, the present study addresses limitations of previous research.
Methods Forty-eight naturally cycling women were recorded during the menstrual, late follicular (high fertility), and luteal phases while leaving voice messages to masculinized and femininized men and women.
Results No cycle-related changes in pitch and pitch variability for the recordings directed to masculinized and femininized men and women were detected. By including relationship status as predictor in additional models, higher-order interaction efects showed that single and partnered women displayed opposite cycle-related pitch changes directed only to women, but not men.
Conclusion The cycle-related voice changes found in the present study do not support the hypothesis that cyclic pitch variations represent an adaptive mechanism for attracting partners. We discuss cyclic changes in voice pitch in relation to intrasexual competition by taking into an account that the present study is likely underpowered for adequate testing of the complex higher-order interactions.

Reitz, A. K., Weidmann, R., Wünsche, J., Bühler, J. L., Burriss, R. P., & Grob, A. (in press). In good times and in bad: a longitudinal analysis of the impact of bereavement on self-esteem and life satisfaction in couples. European Journal of Personality. View paper at publisher's website

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This study examines the impact of bereavement on self-esteem and life satisfaction in both partners of a romantic couple. We investigate the moderating effects of the type of the lost relationship (close family, close friends/others) and romantic relationship characteristics (daily social support, responsiveness-closeness, self-disclosure). We examined 1,238 individuals in 619 male-female couples from the ages 18 to 81 (M[SD] = 31.97 years [13.26]). Both partners completed questionnaires at two assessments that were 20 months (SD = 2.02 months) apart, in between which n = 216 individuals were bereaved. Actor-partner interdependence models showed that bereavement did not predict later self-esteem or life satisfaction in either of the partners. The relationship characteristics and the type of lost relationship did not moderate the effects. The subjective meaning and distress of the loss predicted later self-esteem and life satisfaction. The self-esteem increase was larger for bereaved with a positive/neutral than for bereaved with a negative meaning. We found a partner effect on self-esteem for the group of bereaved who reported a negative meaning. The findings demonstrate that bereavement can impact romantic partners' self-esteem and that the subjective experience of bereavement helps understand individual differences in the effect of bereavement on self-esteem and life satisfaction.


Johnson, M., Lavner, J., Mund, M., Zemp, M., Stanley, S. M., Neyer, F. J., Impett, E. A., Rhoades, G. K., Bodenmann, G., Weidmann, R., Bühler, J. L., Burriss, R. P., Wünsche, J., & Grob, A. (2022). Within-couple associations between communication and relationship satisfaction over time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 48, 534-549. View paper at publisher's website (free access)

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Relationship science contends that the quality of couples’ communication predicts relationship satisfaction over time. Most studies testing these links have examined between-person associations, yet couple dynamics are also theorized at the within-person level: for a given couple, worsened communication is presumed to predict deteriorations in future relationship satisfaction. We examined within-couple associations between satisfaction and communication in three longitudinal studies. Across studies, there were some lagged within-person links between deviations in negative communication to future changes in satisfaction (and vice versa). But the most robust finding was for concurrent within-person associations between negative communication and satisfaction: at times when couples experienced less negative communication than usual, they were also more satisfied with their relationship than was typical. Positive communication was rarely associated with relationship satisfaction at the within-person level. These findings indicate that within-person changes in negative communication primarily covary with, rather than predict, relationship satisfaction.

Mund, M., Weidmann, R., Wrzus, C., Johnson, M. D., Bühler, J. L., Burriss, R. P., Wünsche, J., & Grob, A. (2021). Loneliness is associated with the subjective evaluation of but not daily dynamics in partner relationships. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 46, 38-38. View paper at publisher's website (free access)

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Loneliness describes a perceived deficiency in quantitative or qualitative aspects of individuals’ social relationships. Whereas the health-related consequences of loneliness are well-documented, surprisingly little is known about its interpersonal features and its consequences for relationship outcomes. In the present study, we investigated the association between loneliness and relationship experiences in partner relationships with a sample of 937 individuals from 480 mixed-sex couples. By employing actor-partner interdependence models and dyadic cross-lagged moderated multilevel models, we found higher loneliness to be robustly related to (a) lower relationship satisfaction for both oneself and the partner, (b) more self-reported, but not partner-reported conflicts, (c) lower average levels of one’s own, but not the partner’s closeness, and (d) less own self-disclosure. In contrast, loneliness was not associated with (a) sexual contact frequency, (b) average levels of physical affection, or (c) the daily dynamics between closeness and self-disclosure/physical affection. Thus, the results of the present study indicated that loneliness is primarily associated with the perception of the partner relationship but not its rather objective features or daily dynamics.


Barbaro, N., Weidmann, R., Burriss, R. P., Wünsche, J., Bühler, J. L., Shackelford, T. K., & Grob, A. (2021). The (bidirectional) associations between romantic attachment orientations and mate retention behavior in male-female romantic couples. Evolution and Human Behavior, 42, 497-506. View paper at publisher's website

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Attachment orientations of anxiety and avoidance are associated with many important romantic relationship outcomes. An evolutionary perspective has informed research on the associations between attachment orientations and mate retention behaviors, which individuals perform to retain their romantic partner and maintain their relationship. In the current article, we report two dyadic studies (n = 104, United States; n = 978, Germany, Switzerland, Austria) that evaluated: (1) whether bivariate associations between attachment orientations and mate retention domains are replicable; (2) whether an individual's attachment orientation predicts their partner's mate retention behaviors; and (3) whether, over time, mate retention behaviors predict attachment orientations within couples. Results of both studies replicated previous bivariate associations between attachment anxiety and cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors. Longitudinal dyadic data from Study 2 demonstrated that cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors, specifically, predict future attachment anxiety in romantic partners. These results contribute to the emerging body of research addressing the associations between attachment orientations and mate retention behaviors, and suggest an important (bidirectional) role of attachment anxiety in predicting negative partner-directed behaviors in romantic relationships.

Bühler, J. L., Wrzus, C., Weidmann, R., Wünsche, J., Burriss, R. P., & Grob, A. (2021). Hard-working in general but lazy at home? Generalized Big Five traits and relationship-specific traits in romantic couples over time. Journal of Research in Personality, 92, 104087. View paper at publisher's website)

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To acknowledge the significance of contexts for personality, this study focused on personality in romantic relationships and the concept of relationship-specific traits. Specifically, we were interested in how relationship-specific traits (i.e., how people report to be in their relationship) relate to generalized Big Five traits, and whether both constructs codevelop over time. We computed dyadic bivariate latent growth curve models, using data from 551 couples (Mage = 32.23 years) over 1 year. The findings indicated that generalized traits and relationship-specific traits were positively correlated in their intercepts but did not codevelop over time. Furthermore, baseline relationship satisfaction explained variance in traits, particularly in relationship-specific traits. These findings have implications for how to study personality development in the romantic relationship context.

Gonzalez Avilés, T., Burriss, R. P., Weidmann, R., Bühler, J. L., Wünsche, J., & Grob, A. (2021). Committing to a romantic partner: does attractiveness matter? A dyadic approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 176, 11765. View paper at publisher's website

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Attractiveness is a highly valued trait in prospective romantic partners. However, it is unclear whether romantic partners’ attractiveness affect the commitment to the relationship. We report the results of a study of 565 male-female couples residing in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland. Employing dyadic analytical methods, we show that both men and women are more committed to their relationships if they perceive their partners as attractive. However, attractiveness also had a negative effect on commitment: People tended to feel less committed the more attractive their partners perceived themselves. Furthermore, although partners perceived themselves as similar in attractiveness to their partners, analyses revealed that similarity was not associated with commitment. Together, the findings demonstrate that attractiveness does matter for commitment to existing romantic relationships and emphasize the value of dyadic approaches to studying romantic relationships.

Nikitin, J., Wünsche, J., Bühler, J. L., Weidmann, R., Burriss, R. P., & Grob, A. (2021). Interdependence of approach and avoidance goals in romantic couples over days and months. Journal of Gerontology: Series B, 76(7), 1251–1263. View paper at publisher's website (free access)

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Objectives. Despite the centrality of people’s approach goals (i.e., approach toward positive outcomes) and avoidance goals (i.e., avoidance of negative outcomes) in romantic relationships, little is known about the interdependence of approach and avoidance relationship goals between partners. Assuming that short-term, state-level goals accumulate into general goal tendencies, the present research tested whether partners’ daily (i.e., state level) and aggregated daily (i.e., trait level) approach and avoidance goals are mutually predictive in the short term (after one day) and the long term (after 10-12 months). In addition, we explored whether goal interdependence unfolds differently across adulthood and in relationships of different duration.
Method. Approach and avoidance goals were assessed daily on two 14-day measurement-burst occasions that were conducted 10-12 months apart. The sample consisted of N = 456 female-male couples (age: M = 33.6, SD = 13.8 years; relationship duration: M = 9.6, SD = 10.7 years).
Results. We observed significant short- and long-term partner effects in the prediction of couple members’ approach and avoidance goals. These partner effects were restricted to trait level and they did not emerge at the state level. Almost all effects were independent of age and relationship duration.
Discussion. The present research underscores the importance of disentangling state and trait-level goal tendencies when investigating the interdependence of approach and avoidance goals within romantic relationships.


Rowland, H. M., Burriss, R. P., & Skelhorn, J. (2020). The antipredator benefits of postural camouflage in peppered moth caterpillars. Scientific Reports. View paper at publisher's website (free access)

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Camouflage is the most common form of antipredator defense, and is a textbook example of natural selection. How animals’ appearances prevent detection or recognition is well studied, but the role of prey behavior has received much less attention. Here we report a series of experiments with twig-mimicking larvae of the American peppered moth Biston betularia that test the long-held view that prey have evolved postures that enhance their camouflage, and establish how food availability and ambient temperature affect these postures. We found that predators took longer to attack larvae that were resting in a twig-like posture than larvae resting flat against a branch. Larvae that were chilled or food restricted (manipulations intended to energetically stress larvae) adopted a less twig-like posture than larvae that were fed ad libitum. Our findings provide clear evidence that animals gain antipredator benefits from postural camouflage, and suggest that benefits may come at an energetic cost that animals are unwilling or unable to pay under some conditions.

Bühler, J. L., Weidmann, R., Wünsche, J., Burriss, R. P., & Grob, A. (2020). Daily responsiveness, expectations, and self-disclosure: how the average levels and within-person variability of three relationship components mediate personality–relationship transactions in romantic couples. European Journal of Personality, 34(3), 367-392. View paper at publisher's website

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The associations between couple members’ personality and their relationship satisfaction can be conceptualized as reciprocal transactions. To better understand these transactions, we focused on both partners’ interpersonal vulnerabilities (i.e., neuroticism, low self-esteem, insecure attachment); daily emotional, cognitive, and behavioral relationship components (i.e., perceived responsiveness, positive expectations, self-disclosure); and relationship satisfaction. Specifically, we examined whether the average levels and within-person variability of the relationship components mediated the transactions between interpersonal vulnerabilities and relationship satisfaction. Data came from 689 female-male couples aged 18 to 81 years who participated in three measurement occasions across 12 months, including a 14-day diary phase. We used mediated dyadic bivariate latent change score models to test the level-change and change-change transactions and mediations. The findings partly supported our hypotheses: Couple members with interpersonal vulnerabilities had lower average levels (but not higher within-person variability) of the relationship components, and less satisfied couple members had lower average levels and higher within-person variability of these components. The lower average levels but not the variability mediated between a lower level of relationship satisfaction and an increase in avoidant attachment. No other mediations were observed. We discuss the importance of studying daily relationship components for better understanding reciprocal transactions in couples.


Welling, L. L. M., & Burriss, R. P. (2019). Investigating the ovulatory cycle: An overview of research and methods. In L. L. M. Welling & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook on Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioral Endocrinology. (pp. 109-123). NY: Oxford University Press. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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An abundant amount of research into the human ovulatory cycle and related adaptive shifts in preferences and behaviors has been published in recent decades. Evidence suggests that fertility in women is accompanied by increased preferences for male traits that putatively signal underlying genetic quality, adaptive increases in sexual motivation, and changes in attractiveness. Yet, these supposed adaptive shifts remain controversial and disputed, while methods across studies have been inconsistent. In this chapter, we review the research on phenotypic variation across the human menstrual cycle, focusing on the related areas of preferences for male traits, sexual behavior and motivation, and cues to ovulation. Next, we consider the various methods currently used by researchers to ascertain conception risk and review recently published recommendations intended to guide future research and facilitate comparison across studies.


Burriss, R. P. (2018). Male counter strategies to cyclic shifts. In T. K. Shackelford & V. A. Weekes-Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer. View paper at publisher's website

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Human female fertility varies over the menstrual cycle. The likelihood that a single act of intercourse will result in conception is greatest in the days preceding ovulation. At this time, women are more attractive and are more driven to enhance their attractiveness. Androphilic women become more interested in men who are not their primary partner, and their preference for physically and behaviorally feminine men decreases. Because men who are women’s primary partners risk desertion or (if their partner engages in short-term sexual relationships with other men) investing in biologically unrelated offspring, they have likely experienced selection pressure to deploy counterstrategies that mitigate the effects of female menstrual cycle shifts. These counterstrategies may include changes to a man’s sexual desire, his jealousy and mate-guarding behavior, and his propensity to compete with sexual rivals.


Inoue, Y., Takahashi, T., Burriss, R. P., Arai, S., Hasegawa, T., Yamagishi, T., & Kiyonari, T. (2017). Testosterone promotes either dominance or submissiveness in the Ultimatum Game depending on players’ social rank. Scientific Reports, 7, 5335 » View paper at publisher's website (open access)

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Endogenous testosterone promotes behaviours intended to enhance social dominance. However, recent research suggests that testosterone enhances strategic social behaviour rather than dominance seeking behaviour. This possibility has not been tested in a population whose members are known to vary in social status. Here, we explored the relationship between pre-existing social status and salivary testosterone level among members of a rugby team at a Japanese university, where a strong seniority norm maintains hierarchical relationships. Participants played a series of one-shot Ultimatum Games (UG) both as proposer and responder. Opponents were anonymised but of known seniority. We analysed participants’ acquiescence (how much more they offered beyond the lowest offer they would accept). The results showed that, among the most senior participants, higher testosterone was associated with lower acquiescence. Conversely, higher testosterone among the lower-status participants was associated with higher acquiescence. Our results suggest that testosterone may enhance socially dominant behaviour among high-status persons, but strategic submission to seniority among lower-status persons.

Rowland, H. M. & Burriss, R. P. (2017). Human colour in mate choice and competition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: B, 372, 20160350 » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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The colour of our skin and clothing affects how others perceive us and how we behave. Human skin colour varies conspicuously with genetic ancestry, but even subtle changes in skin colour due to diet, blood oxygenation and hormone levels influence social perceptions. In this review, we describe the theoretical and empirical frameworks in which human colour is researched. We explore how subtle skin colour differences relate to judgements of health and attractiveness. Also, because humans are one of the few organisms able to manipulate their apparent colour, we review how cosmetics and clothing are implicated in courtship and competition, both inside the laboratory and in the real world. Research on human colour is in its infancy compared with human psychophysics and colour research in non-human animals, and hence we present best-practice guidelines for methods and reporting, which we hope will improve the validity and reproducibility of studies on human coloration. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application’.

Hill, A. K., Cárdenas, R. A., Wheatley, J. R., Welling, L. L. M., Burriss, R. P., Claes, P., Apicella, C. L., McDaniel, M. A., Little, A. C., Shriver, M. D., & Puts, D. A. (2017). Are there vocal cues to human developmental stability? Relationships between facial fluctuating asymmetry and voice attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(2), 249-258. » View paper at publisher's website

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Fluctuating asymmetry (FA), deviation from perfect bilateral symmetry, is thought to reflect an organism's relative inability to maintain stable morphological development in the face of environmental and genetic stressors. Previous research has documented negative relationships between FA and attractiveness judgments in humans, but scant research has explored relationships between the human voice and this putative marker of genetic quality in either sex. Only one study (and in women only) has explored relationships between vocal attractiveness and asymmetry of the face, a feature-rich trait space central in prior work on human genetic quality and mate choice. We therefore examined this relationship in three studies comprising 231 men and 240 women from two Western samples as well as Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Voice recordings were collected and rated for attractiveness, and FA was computed from two-dimensional facial images as well as, for a subset of men, three-dimensional facial scans. Through meta-analysis of our results and those of prior studies, we found a negative association between FA and vocal attractiveness that was highly robust and statistically significant whether we included effect sizes from previously published work, or only those from the present research, and regardless of the inclusion of any individual sample or method of assessing FA (e.g., facial or limb FA). Weighted mean correlations between FA and vocal attractiveness across studies were -.23 for men and -.29 for women. This research thus offers strong support for the hypothesis that voices provide cues to genetic quality in humans.


Burriss, R. P. (2016). Sexual signaling during ovulation. In T. K. Shackelford & V. A. Weekes-Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer. » View paper at publisher's website

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The likelihood that a single act of sexual intercourse will lead to conception varies over a woman’s menstrual cycle, peaking in the days preceding ovulation (during estrus, sensu Thornhill and Gangestad 2008). Some species of primate advertise fertility status with conspicuous signals, such as bright pink sexual swellings. Women do not conspicuously advertise their fertility, but neither is estrus completely concealed. In an oft-cited study, Miller et al. (2007) asked professional exotic dancers to keep a record of their nightly tip earnings for 2 months. The dancers received about US$67 per hour when they were near ovulation, but only US$52 at less fertile times of the month. Why did patrons give larger tips to ovulating dancers? Research has shown that women’s appearance, body odor, voice, and behavior vary over the cycle and that men and women are able to detect these changes in others (reviewed in Haselton and Gildersleeve 2015).

Puts, D. A., Hill, A. K., Bailey, D. H., Walker, R. S., Rendall, D., Wheatley, J. R., Welling, L. L. M., Dawood, K., Cárdenas, R., Burriss, R. P., Jablonski, N. G., Shriver, M. D., Weiss, D., Lameira, A. R., Apicella, C. L., Owren, M. J., Barelli, C., Glenn, M. E., & Ramos-Fernandez, G. (2016). Sexual selection on male vocal fundamental frequency in humans and other anthropoids. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 283, 20152830. » View paper at publisher's website

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In many primates, including humans, the vocalizations of males and females differ dramatically, with male vocalizations and vocal anatomy often seeming to exaggerate apparent body size. These traits may be favoured by sexual selection because low-frequency male vocalizations intimidate rivals and/or attract females, but this hypothesis has not been systematically tested across primates, nor is it clear why competitors and potential mates should attend to vocalization frequencies. Here we show across anthropoids that sexual dimorphism in fundamental frequency (F0) increased during evolutionary transitions towards polygyny, and decreased during transitions towards monogamy. Surprisingly, humans exhibit greater F0 sexual dimorphism than any other ape. We also show that low-F0 vocalizations predict perceptions of men's dominance and attractiveness, and predict hormone profiles (low cortisol and high testosterone) related to immune function. These results suggest that low male F0 signals condition to competitors and mates, and evolved in male anthropoids in response to the intensity of mating competition.

Doll, L., Cárdenas, R. A., Burriss, R. P., Puts, D. A., (2016). Sexual selection and life history: Earlier recalled puberty predicts men's phenotypic masculinization. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 2(2), 134-149. » View paper at publisher's website (open access)

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In some laboratory rodents, males' brains and behavior become less sensitive to the organizing effects of androgens across the time window surrounding puberty. Later puberty in human males has also been associated with less male-typical psychology and behavior, such as lower performance on mental rotation tasks and lower risk of substance abuse and delinquency. Here, we propose that life history (LH) theory provides a useful theoretical framework for understanding such relationships between pubertal timing and phenotypic masculinization. Because a faster male LH strategy emphasizes mating over parenting, earlier puberty may lead more generally to greater masculinization of traits that increase in sexual dimorphism at puberty and function in mating competition. In other words, we suggest that decreasing sensitivity to androgens represents a proximate mechanism that facilitates the development of mating-related adaptations in men with fast LH strategies. We tested this hypothesis in 153 men. Consistent with our hypothesis, earlier recalled pubertal timing predicted greater adult male body mass index, facial dominance, biceps circumference, and, to a lesser degree, systemizing and mental rotation ability. Some sexually dimorphic traits that were unrelated to pubertal timing in our data may have been less relevant to our male ancestors' mating success and hence to a fast LH strategy.

Lyons, M., Marcinkowska, U., Moisey, V., Burriss, R. P., & Harrison, N. (2016). The effects of resource availability and relationship status on women's preference for facial masculinity in men: An eye-tracking study. Personality and Individual Differences, 95, 25-28. » View paper at publisher's website
Note: My authorship credit did not appear in the published version of the paper. Please see this corrigendum.

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Previous research has demonstrated that perceived availability of environmental resources affects the mate choice of females. However, it is unclear whether women's partnership status influences the effects of environmental circumstances on masculinity preference. Further, the role of environmental scarcity on women's gaze patterns when evaluating male faces has not been investigated. The current study investigated how relationship status and environmental factors affected women's gaze patterns and preference towards masculinised and feminised male faces. Twenty-two participants in a long-term romantic relationship, and 26 who were single, were primed with either a high (‘wealthy’) or low (‘scarcity’) resource availability scenario. They then completed a facial masculinity/femininity preference task while eye-gaze behaviour was measured. Women in a relationship (but not single women) had an increased preference towards masculine faces in the scarcity condition, compared to the wealthy condition; this preference was also reflected in eye gaze behaviour. In contrast, single women had longer first fixations on feminine rather than masculine faces when evaluating them as long-term partners in the wealthy condition, but no overt preference for either face type. These findings reveal the importance of taking women's relationship status into account in investigations of the role of environmental influences on masculinity preferences.

Pazhoohi, F., & Burriss, R. P. (2016). Hijab and “hitchhiking”: A field study. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 2(1), 32-37. » View paper at publisher's website (open access)

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In the West, the style of a women’s dress is perceived as a cue to her sexual behavior and influences the likelihood that a man will initiate conversation with the woman or offer her assistance. Hijab, or Islamic veiling, varies in the extent to which it reveals skin and body shape; the style a woman adopts affects her attractiveness to men. To test whether women who wear more liberal or conservative forms of hijab are more likely to be offered help by men, we observed Iranian motorists in a ‘hitchhiking’ situation. Here we show that a young female confederate, standing beside a road and in view of motorists but not actively soliciting assistance, was more likely to be offered a ride when she wore a headscarf and close-fitting garments (liberal dress) rather than a full body veil (chador, conservative dress). When the woman wore liberal dress, 21.4% of motorists offered a ride; only 3.9% of motorists offered a ride to the woman when she wore conservative dress—a significant difference. All drivers were men. This small to medium effect is substantially larger than those reported in similar studies in Europe, and extends previous research on male helping behavior and female attractiveness to Iran, a nation where courtship behavior and dress are constrained by stricter social mores and laws than apply in the West.

Gangestad, S. W., Haselton, M. G., Welling, L. L. M., Gildersleeve, K., Pillsworth, E. G., Burriss, R. P., Larson, C. M., & Puts, D. A. (2016). How valid are assessments of conception probability in ovulatory cycle research? Evaluations, recommendations, and theoretical implications. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37(2), 85-96. » View paper at publisher's website

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Over the past two decades, a large literature examining psychological changes across women's ovulatory cycles has accumulated, emphasizing comparisons between fertile and non-fertile phases of the cycle. While some studies have verified ovulation using luteinizing hormone (LH) tests, counting methods - assessments of conception probability based on counting forward from actual or retrospectively recalled onset of last menses, or backward from actual or anticipated onset of next menses - are more common. The validity of these methods remains largely unexplored. Based on published data on the distributions of the lengths of follicular and luteal phases, we created a sample of 58,000+ simulated cycles. We used the sample to assess the validity of counting methods. Aside from methods that count backward from a confirmed onset of next menses, validities are modest, generally ranging from about .40-.55. We offer power estimates and make recommendations for future work. We also discuss implications for interpreting past research.


Burriss, R. P., Troscianko, J., Lovell, P. G., Fulford, A. J. C., Stevens, M., Quigley, R., Payne, J., Saxton, T. K., & Rowland, H. M. (2015). Changes in women’s facial skin color over the ovulatory cycle are not detectable by the human visual system. PLoS ONE, 10(7): e0130093. » View paper at publisher's website (open access)

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Human ovulation is not advertised, as it is in several primate species, by conspicuous sexual swellings. However, there is increasing evidence that the attractiveness of women’s body odor, voice, and facial appearance peak during the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle. Cycle effects on facial attractiveness may be underpinned by changes in facial skin color, but it is not clear if skin color varies cyclically in humans or if any changes are detectable. To test these questions we photographed women daily for at least one cycle. Changes in facial skin redness and luminance were then quantified by mapping the digital images to human long, medium, and shortwave visual receptors. We find cyclic variation in skin redness, but not luminance. Redness decreases rapidly after menstrual onset, increases in the days before ovulation, and remains high through the luteal phase. However, we also show that this variation is unlikely to be detectable by the human visual system. We conclude that changes in skin color are not responsible for the effects of the ovulatory cycle on women’s attractiveness.


Roberts, S. C., Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Cobey, K. D., Klapilová, K., Havlíček, J., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L., Petrie, M. (2014). Partner choice, relationship satisfaction and oral contraception: The congruency hypothesis. Psychological Science, 25, 1497-1503. » View paper at publisher's website

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Hormonal fluctuation across the menstrual cycle explains temporal variation in women’s judgment of the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex. Use of hormonal contraceptives could therefore influence both initial partner choice and, if contraceptive use subsequently changes, intrapair dynamics. Associations between hormonal contraceptive use and relationship satisfaction may thus be best understood by considering whether current use is congruent with use when relationships formed, rather than by considering current use alone. In the study reported here, we tested this congruency hypothesis in a survey of 365 couples. Controlling for potential confounds (including relationship duration, age, parenthood, and income), we found that congruency in current and previous hormonal contraceptive use, but not current use alone, predicted women’s sexual satisfaction with their partners. Congruency was not associated with women’s nonsexual satisfaction or with the satisfaction of their male partners. Our results provide empirical support for the congruency hypothesis and suggest that women’s sexual satisfaction is influenced by changes in partner preference associated with change in hormonal contraceptive use.

Wheatley, J. R., Apicella, C. A., Burriss, R. P., Cárdenas, R. A., Bailey, D. H., Welling, L. L. M., & Puts, D. A. (2014). Women's faces and voices are cues to reproductive potential in industrial and forager societies. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(4), 264-271. » View paper at publisher's website

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Women’s faces and voices may be cues to their reproductive potential. If so, then individual differences in indices of female fecundity and residual reproductive value, such as hormonal profiles, body composition, and age, should be associated with women’s facial and vocal attractiveness to men. However, previous research on these associations is sparse, has rendered mixed results, and is limited to Western samples. The current study therefore explored relationships between correlates of reproductive capability (testosterone levels, age, and body mass index [BMI]) and facial and vocal attractiveness in women from industrial and foraging societies. Women’s facial and vocal attractiveness were associated with each of these indicators in at least one of the two samples. The patterns of these associations suggest that women’s faces and voices provide cues to both common and unique components of reproductive potential and help explain the evolution of men’s mating preferences.

Burriss, R. P., Marcinkowska, U. M., & Lyons, M. T. (2014). Gaze properties of women judging the attractiveness of masculine and feminine male faces. Evolutionary Psychology, 12(1), 19-35. » View paper at publisher's website (open access)

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Most studies of female facial masculinity preference have relied upon self-reported preference, with participants selecting or rating the attractiveness of faces that differ in masculinity. However, researchers have not established a consensus as to whether women’s general preference is for male faces that are masculine or feminine, and several studies have indicated that women prefer neither. We investigated women’s preferences for male facial masculinity using standard two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) preference trials paired with eye tracking measures, to determine whether conscious and non-conscious measures of preference yield similar results. We found that women expressed a preference for, gazed longer at, and fixated more frequently on feminized male faces. We also found effects of relationship status, relationship context (whether faced are judged for attractiveness as a long- or short-term partner), and hormonal contraceptive use. These results support previous findings that women express a preference for feminized over masculinized male faces, demonstrate that non-conscious measures of preference for this trait echo consciously expressed preferences, and suggest that certain aspects of the preference decision-making process may be better captured by eye tracking than by 2AFC preference trials.


Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Petrie, M., Jones, B. C., & Roberts, S. C. (2013). Oral contraceptive use in women changes preferences for male facial masculinity and is associated with partner facial masculinity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(9), 1777-1785. » View paper at publisher's website

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Millions of women use hormonal contraception and it has been suggested that such use may alter mate preferences. To examine the impact of oral contraceptive (pill) use on preferences, we tested for within-subject changes in preferences for masculine faces in women initiating pill use. Between two sessions, initiation of pill use significantly decreased women’s preferences for male facial masculinity but did not influence preferences for same-sex faces. To test whether altered preference during pill use influences actual partner choice, we examined facial characteristics in 170 age-matched male partners of women who reported having either been using or not using the pill when the partnership was formed. Both facial measurements and perceptual judgements demonstrated that partners of women who used the pill during mate choice have less masculine faces than partners of women who did not use hormonal contraception at this time. Our data (A) provide the first experimental evidence that initiation of pill use in women causes changes in facial preferences and (B) documents downstream effects of these changes on real-life partner selection. Given that hormonal contraceptive use is widespread, effects of pill use on the processes of partner formation have important implications for relationship stability and may have other biologically relevant consequences.

Welling, L. L. M., Singh, K., Puts, D. A., Jones, B. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2013). Self-reported sexual desire in homosexual men and women predicts preferences for sexually dimorphic facial cues. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(5), 785-791. » View paper at publisher's website

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Recent studies investigating the relationship between self-reported sexual desire and attraction to same- and opposite-sex individuals have found that homosexual men’s sexual desire is positively correlated with their self-reported attraction to own-sex individuals only, while homosexual women’s sexual desire is positively correlated with their self-reported attraction to both men and women. These data have been interpreted as evidence that sexual desire strengthens men’s pre-existing (i.e., dominant) sexual behaviors and strengthens women’s sexual behaviors in general. Here we show that homosexual men’s (n = 106) scores on the Sexual Desire Inventory-2 (SDI-2) were positively correlated with their preferences for exaggerated sex-typical shape cues in own-sex, but not opposite-sex, faces. Contrary to the hypothesis that sexual desire strengthens women’s preferences for sexual dimorphism generally, homosexual women’s (n = 83) SDI-2 scores were positively correlated with their preferences for exaggerated sex-typical shape cues in opposite-sex faces only. Together with previous research in heterosexual subjects, our findings support the proposal that sexual desire increases the incidence of existing sexual behaviors in homosexual and heterosexual men, and increases the incidence of sexual responses more generally in heterosexual women, although not necessarily in homosexual women.

Puts, D. A., Bailey, D. H., Cárdenas, R. A., Burriss, R. P., Welling, L. L. M., Wheatley, J. R., & Dawood, K. (2013). Women’s attractiveness changes with estradiol and progesterone across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 63(1), 13-19. » View paper at publisher's website

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In many species, females are more sexually attractive to males near ovulation. Some evidence suggests a similar pattern in humans, but methodological limitations prohibit firm conclusions at present, and information on physiological mechanisms underlying any such pattern is lacking. In 202 normally-cycling women, we explored whether women's attractiveness changed over the cycle as a function of two likely candidates for mediating these changes: estradiol and progesterone. We scheduled women to attend one session during the late follicular phase and another during the mid-luteal phase. At each session, facial photographs, voice recordings and saliva samples were collected. All photographs and voice recordings were subsequently rated by men for attractiveness and by women for flirtatiousness and attractiveness to men. Saliva samples were assayed for estradiol and progesterone. We found that progesterone and its interaction with estradiol negatively predicted vocal attractiveness and overall (facial plus vocal) attractiveness to men. Progesterone also negatively predicted women's facial attractiveness to men and female-rated facial attractiveness, facial flirtatiousness and vocal attractiveness, but not female-rated vocal flirtatiousness. These results strongly suggest a pattern of increased attractiveness during peak fertility in the menstrual cycle and implicate estradiol and progesterone in driving these changes.


Roberts, S. C., Klapilová, K., Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Petrie, M., Havlíček, J. (2012). Relationship satisfaction and outcome in women who meet their partner while using oral contraception. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London - B, 279, 1430-1436. » View paper at publisher's website

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Hormonal variation over the menstrual cycle alters women's preferences for phenotypic indicators of men's genetic or parental quality. Hormonal contraceptives suppress these shifts, inducing different mate preference patterns among users and non-users. This raises the possibility that women using oral contraception (OC) choose different partners than they would do otherwise but, to date, we know neither whether these laboratory-measured effects are sufficient to exert real-world consequences, nor what these consequences would be. Here, we test for differences in relationship quality and survival between women who were using or not using OC when they chose the partner who fathered their first child. Women who used OC scored lower on measures of sexual satisfaction and partner attraction, experienced increasing sexual dissatisfaction during the relationship, and were more likely to be the one to initiate an eventual separation if it occurred. However, the same women were more satisfied with their partner's paternal provision, and thus had longer relationships and were less likely to separate. These effects are congruent with evolutionary predictions based on cyclical preference shifts. Our results demonstrate that widespread use of hormonal contraception may contribute to relationship outcome, with implications for human reproductive behaviour, family cohesion and quality of life.

Welling, L. L. M., Puts, D. A., Roberts, S. C., Little, A. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2012). Hormonal contraceptive use and mate retention behavior in women and their male partners. Hormones and Behavior, 61(1), 114-120. » View paper at publisher's website

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Female hormonal contraceptive use has been associated with a variety of physical and psychological side effects. Women who use hormonal contraceptives report more intense affective responses to partner infidelity and greater overall sexual jealousy than women not using hormonal contraceptives, indicating a hormonal correlate. Recently, researchers have found that using hormonal contraceptives with higher levels of synthetic estradiol, and not progestin, is associated with significantly higher levels of self-reported jealousy in women. Here, we extend these findings by examining the relationship between mate retention behavior in heterosexual women and their male partners and women’s use of hormonal contraceptives. We find that women using hormonal contraceptives report more frequent use of mate retention tactics, specifically behaviors directed toward their partners (i.e., intersexual manipulations). Men partnered with women using hormonal contraceptives also report more frequent mate retention behavior, and this generalizes to both acts directed toward their partner and acts directed toward rivals (i.e., intrasexual manipulations). Additionally, among women using hormonal contraceptives, the dose of synthetic estradiol, but not of synthetic progesterone, positively predicts mate retention behavior frequency. These findings demonstrate how hormonal contraceptive use may influence behavior that directly affects the quality of romantic relationships as perceived by both female and male partners.

Puts, D. A., Welling, L. L. M., Burriss, R. P., & Dawood, K. (2012). Men's masculinity and attractiveness predict their female partners' reported orgasm frequency and timing. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(1), 1-9. » View paper at publisher's website

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It has been hypothesized that female orgasm evolved to facilitate recruitment of high-quality genes for offspring. Supporting evidence indicates that female orgasm promotes conception, although this may be mediated by the timing of female orgasm in relation to male ejaculation. This hypothesis also predicts that women will achieve orgasm more frequently when copulating with high-quality males, but limited data exist to support this prediction. We therefore explored relationships between the timing and frequency of women's orgasms and putative markers of the genetic quality of their mates, including measures of attractiveness, facial symmetry, dominance and masculinity. We found that women reported more frequent and earlier-timed orgasms when mated to masculine and dominant men—those with high scores on a principle component characterized by high objectively measured facial masculinity, observer-rated facial masculinity, partner-rated masculinity, and partner rated dominance. Women reported more frequent orgasm during or after male ejaculation when mated to attractive men—those with high scores on a principle component characterized by high observer-rated and self-rated attractiveness. Putative measures of men's genetic quality did not predict their mates' orgasms from self-masturbation or from non-coital partnered sexual behavior. Overall, these results appear to support a role for female orgasm in sire choice.


Burriss, R. P., Welling, L. L. M., & Puts, D. A. (2011). Mate-preference drives mate-choice: Men's self-rated masculinity predicts their female partner's preference for masculinity. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(8), 1023-1027. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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Women who rate their male partner as more masculine tend to prefer more masculine faces. However, it is unclear whether a preference for masculinity causes women to select masculine partners, or merely to perceive their current partner as more masculine. By incorporating multiple measures of male masculinity, we establish that women’s preference for facial masculinity in short-term partners is correlated with their rating of their partner’s masculinity and with their partner’s self-rated masculinity, but with neither independent-ratings of men’s facial masculinity nor a facialmetric masculinity index. Facial masculinity preference in long-term partners is correlated with women’s rating of partner masculinity, with a similar trend for men’s self-rating. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that these relationships were independent of age, although only for short-term preference. We conclude that women who prefer masculine men tend to have more masculine partners, and therefore that mate-preferences do drive mate-choice.

Burriss, R. P., Roberts, S. C., Welling, L. L. M., Puts, D. A., & Little, A. C. (2011). Heterosexual romantic couples mate assortatively for facial symmetry, but not masculinity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(5), 601-613. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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Preferences for partners with symmetric and sex-typical faces are well documented and considered evidence for the good-genes theory of mate-choice. However, it is unclear whether preferences for these traits drive the real-world selection of mates. In two samples of young heterosexual couples from the UK (Study 1) and the USA (Study 2), we found assortment for facial symmetry but not for sex-typicality or independently-rated attractiveness. Within-couple similarity in these traits did not predict relationship duration or quality, although female attractiveness and relationship duration were negatively correlated among couples in which the woman was the more attractive partner. We conclude that humans may mate assortatively on facial symmetry, but this remains just one of the many physical and non-physical traits to which people likely attend when forming romantic partnerships. This is also the first evidence that preferences for symmetry transfer from the laboratory to a real-world setting.

Welling, L. L. M., Burriss, R. P., & Puts, D. A. (2011). Mate retention behavior modulates men’s preferences for self-resemblance in infant faces. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32(2), 118-126. » View paper at publisher's website

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Visual assessments of relatedness may affect paternal investment decisions and altruistic behaviors. Work examining preferences for cues to self-resemblance in child faces has been equivocal, with findings showing that men have a higher preference than women, that preference for self-resemblance was statistically significant in women but not men, and that both men and women have a significant preference for self-resemblance when making parental investment decisions. Using data from 67 heterosexual romantic couples, we present evidence that both men and women prefer self-resembling infants, but show no significant preference for partner-resembling infants. Moreover, men's intersexual negative inducement tactics were correlated with, and significantly predicted, their preferences for self-resembling infants. These findings provide evidence that, although both men and women show a general preference for self-resemblance in infant faces, men's preferences for self-resemblance may be further modulated by perceived threat of cuckoldry.

Burriss, R. P., Welling, L. L. M., & Puts, D. A. (2011). Men’s attractiveness predicts their preference for female facial femininity when judging for short-term, but not long-term, partners. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5), 542-546. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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It is well established that women's preferences for masculinity are contingent on their own market-value and the duration of the sought relationship, but few studies have investigated similar effects in men. Here, we tested whether men's attractiveness predicts their preferences for feminine face shape in women when judging for long- and short-term relationship partners. We found that attractive men expressed a stronger preference for facial femininity compared to less attractive men. The relationship was evident when men judged women for a short-term, but not for a long-term, relationship. These findings suggest that market-value may influence men's preferences for feminine characteristics in women's faces and indicate that men's preferences may be subject to facultative variation to a greater degree than was previously thought.

Puts, D. A., Barndt, J. L., Welling, L. L. M., Dawood, K., & Burriss, R. P. (2011) Intrasexual competition among women: Vocal femininity affects perceptions of attractiveness and flirtatiousness. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(1), 111-115. » View paper at publisher's website

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Cognitive mechanisms for recognizing high quality sexual rivals should facilitate the economical allocation of mating effort. Women compete to attract male investment, and previous studies have shown that feminine voices are attractive to men. Here, we manipulated two sexually dimorphic acoustic parameters in women’s voices, fundamental frequency and formant dispersion, by the same perceptual amounts and explored the effects on attractiveness to heterosexual men in short- and long-term mating contexts. Femininity in both acoustic parameters was more attractive to men, especially in short-term mating contexts, and formant dispersion had a larger effect than did fundamental frequency. We then explored the effects of these manipulations on women’s perceptions of other women’s flirtatiousness and attractiveness to men. Feminine voices were perceived as more flirtatious and more attractive to men, and women were most sensitive to formant dispersion, the acoustic parameter that had the stronger effect on men’s preferences. These results support the interpretation that women use vocal femininity to track the threat potential of competitors.


Puts, D. A., Cardenas, R. A., Bailey, D. H., Burriss, R. P., Jordan, C. L., & Breedlove, S. M. (2010). Salivary testosterone does not predict mental rotation performance in men or women. Hormones and Behavior, 58(2), 282-289. » View paper at publisher's website

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Multiple studies report relationships between circulating androgens and performance on sexually differentiated spatial cognitive tasks in human adults, yet other studies find no such relationships. Relatively small sample sizes are a likely source of some of these discrepancies. The present study thus tests for activational effects of testosterone (T) using a within-participants design by examining relationships between diurnal fluctuations in salivary T and performance on a male-biased spatial cognitive task (Mental Rotation Task) in the largest sample yet collected: 160 women and 177 men. T concentrations were unrelated to within-sex variation in mental rotation performance in both sexes. Further, between-session learning-related changes in performance were unrelated to T levels, and circadian changes in T were unrelated to changes in spatial performance in either sex. These results suggest that circulating T does not contribute substantially to sex differences in spatial ability in young men and women. By elimination, the contribution of androgens to sex differences in human performance on these tasks may be limited to earlier, organizational periods.

Grimbos, T., Dawood, K., Burriss, R. P., Zucker, K. J., & Puts, D. A. (2010). Sexual orientation and the 2nd to 4th finger length ratio: a meta-analysis in men and women. Behavioural Neuroscience, 124(2), 278-287. » View paper at publisher's website

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The ratio of the lengths of the second and fourth fingers (2D:4D) may serve as a marker for prenatal androgen signaling. Because people are typically unaware of their 2D:4D, its use allows possible effects of early sex hormone regimes and socialization to be disentangled. We conducted a meta-analysis on relationships between 2D:4D and sexual orientation in men and women in 18 independent samples of men and 16 independent samples of women. Collectively, these samples comprised 1,618 heterosexual men, 1,693 heterosexual women, 1,503 gay men, and 1,014 lesbians. In addition to identifying the normative heterosexual sex difference in 2D:4D for both hands, we found that heterosexual women had higher (more feminine) left- and right-hand 2D:4D than did lesbians, but we found no difference between heterosexual and gay men. Moderator analyses suggested that ethnicity explained some between-studies variation in men. These results add to a literature suggesting that early sex hormone signaling affects sexual orientation in women, and highlight the need for further research exploring the relationships among 2D:4D, sexual orientation, and ethnicity in men.

Burriss, R. P. (2010). The effect of veneers on cosmetic improvement: comments on Nalbandian and Millar, 2009. British Dental Journal, 208. 47. » View paper at publisher's website


Burriss, R. P. (2009). Esthetic effect of orthodontic appliances: comments on Berto et al., 2009. American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics, 136(3), 305-306. » View paper at publisher's website

Burriss, R. P. (2009). Symmetry is sexy: reply to Hodgson’s ‘Symmetry and Humans’. Antiquity, 83(322), 1170-1175. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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In his contribution to the Antiquity debate over the viability of Kohn and Mithen’s ‘Sexy Handaxe Theory’ (1999), Hodgson (2009: 195-8) asserts that ‘symmetry is not connected with health and thus cannot have served as a sign of genetic worth’. Because I find his interpretation of the current literature on symmetry and its relationship to health and attractiveness to be flawed, I cannot accept Hodgson’s argument. I address each of my concerns below in the first part of this response. I also remain unconvinced that, even if Hodgson’s assertion were supported by the literature, it would necessarily follow that symmetry in manufactured objects, including Acheulean handaxes, cannot signal ‘sexiness’. In the second part of my response I explain why I consider this to be so.

Roberts, S. C., Saxton, T. K., Murray, A. K., Burriss, R. P., Rowland, H. M., & Little, A. C. (2009). Static and dynamic facial images cue similar attractiveness judgements. Ethology, 115, 588-595. » View paper at publisher's website

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Approaches to the study of human mate preferences commonly involve judgements of facial photographs and assume that these judgements provide a reasonable reflection of how individuals would be perceived in real encounters. However, three recent studies have each reported non-significant correlations between judgements using photos (static images) and those using videos (dynamic images). These results have led previous authors to conclude that static and dynamic faces are judged according to different evaluative standards and that this may call into question the validity of findings from experiments using static images. However, the extent of the discrepancy in judgements between image formats remains unknown, and may be influenced by different experimental designs. Here, we tested the effects of several experimental design factors on the strength of correlations between image presentation formats. Using both male and female targets, we compared observed static–dynamic judgement correlations when (1) judgements were made by the same or different raters, or (2) by raters of the same- or opposite-sex to the targets, and (3) when dynamic stimuli were collected under different contextual scenarios. For (1) and (2), we also measured correlations when order of presentation of static and dynamic stimuli was alternated. Our results suggest that each design feature has independent effects on the strength of static–dynamic correlations. Correlations were stronger when static and dynamic stimuli were rated by the same raters. They were weakest for judgements of males by females, when based on seeing photos before videos. This interaction with sex is consistent with previous studies, indicating that females are especially responsive to male dynamic cues. However, in contrast to previous findings and in all cases, static–dynamic correlations were strongly and significantly positive, indicating that judgments based on static images provide an accurate representation of someone’s attractiveness during prolonged encounters.

Saxton, T. K., Burriss, R. P., Murray, A. K., Rowland, H. M., Roberts, S. C. (2009). Face, body and speech cues independently predict judgments of attractiveness. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 7, 23-35. » View paper at publisher's website

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Research on human attraction frequently makes use of single-modality stimuli such as neutral-expression facial photographs as proxy indicators of an individual’s attractiveness. However, we know little about how judgments of these single-modality stimuli correspond to judgments of stimuli that incorporate multi-modal cues of face, body and speech. In the present study, ratings of attractiveness judged from videos of participants introducing themselves were independently predicted by judgments of the participant’s facial attractiveness (a neutral-expression facial photograph masked to conceal the hairstyle), body attractiveness (a photograph of the upper body), and speech attractiveness (the soundtrack to the video). We also found that ratings of the face, body and speech were positively related to each other. Our results support the assumption that the single-modality stimuli used in much attractiveness research are valid proxy indicators of overall attractiveness in ecologically valid contexts, and complement literature showing cross-modality concordance of trait attractiveness, but also recommend that research relying on assessments of individual attractiveness take account of both visual and vocal attractiveness where possible.

Burriss, R. P., Rowland, H. M., & Little, A. C. (2009). Facial scarring enhances men’s attractiveness for short-term relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 213-217. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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It is widely thought in Western societies that facial scarring has a negative impact on attractiveness. However, the specific effects of non-severe facial posttraumatic scarring on third party perceptions of attractiveness are currently unknown. Here we show that non-severe facial scarring can enhance perceptions of attractiveness in men but not in women. We report the results of asking 147 female and 76 male participants to rate the attractiveness of unscarred opposite-sex faces and faces that had been manipulated to exhibit photorealistic scarring, demonstrating that scarring enhances women’s ratings of male attractiveness for short-term, but not long-term, relationships. Men’s ratings of female attractiveness were unaffected by scarring. Though the reported effect is small, our results suggest that under certain circumstances scars may advertise valued information about their bearers, and that the idea that scarring universally devalues social perceptions can no longer be assumed to be true.


Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., & Caldwell, C. A. (2008). Social influence in human face preference: men and women are influenced more for long-term than short-term attractiveness decisions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29(2), 140-146. » View paper at publisher's website

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In nonhuman animals, mate-choice copying has received much attention, with studies demonstrating that females tend to copy the choices of other females for specific males. Here we show, for both men and women, that pairing with an attractive partner increases the attractiveness of opposite-sex faces for long-term relationship decisions but not short-term decisions. Our study therefore shows social transmission of face preference in humans, which may have important consequences for the evolution of human traits. Our study also highlights the flexibility of human mate choice and suggests that, for humans, learning about nonphysical traits that are important to pair-bonding drives copying-like behavior.


Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2007). Preferences for masculinity in male bodies change across the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 633-639. » View paper at publisher's website

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In human females cyclic shifts in preference have been documented for odour and physical and behavioral male traits. Women prefer the smell of dominant males, more masculine male faces and men behaving more dominantly when at peak fertility than at other times in their menstrual cycle. Here we examine variation in preferences for body sexual dimorphism. Across two studies, both between- and within-participant, we show that women prefer greater masculinity in male bodies at times when their fertility is likely highest, in the follicular phase of their cycle. Shifts were seen when rating for a short-term but not when rating for a long-term relationship. In line with studies showing similar effects for facial sexual dimorphism, we also show that women prefer greater masculinity when they think themselves attractive than when they think themselves less attractive. These results indicate that women's preferences for sexual dimorphism in male bodies follow a similar pattern as found for sexual dimorphism and dominance in other domains and such differences in preference may serve a similar function. Cyclic preferences could influence women to select partners when most likely to become pregnant that possess traits that may be most likely to maximize their offspring's quality via attraction to masculinity or serve to help acquire investment via attraction to femininity.

Burriss, R. P., Little, A. C., & Nelson, E. C. (2007). 2D:4D and sexually dimorphic facial characteristics. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(3), 377-384 » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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The second-to-fourth-digit ratio (2D:4D) may be related to prenatal testosterone and estrogen levels and pubertal face growth. Several studies have recently provided evidence that 2D:4D is associated with other-rated facial masculinity and dominance, but not with facialmetric measures of masculinity. We found that localized face shape differences, shown here to be sexually dimorphic and related to ratings of dominance, were associated with direct and indirect measurements of 2D:4D. In this study we examined various localized features of the face, showing nose width, jaw angle, and lip height to be sexually dimorphic. We then had faces rated for dominance and saw that the most dimorphic characteristics were those most associated with rated dominance, with typically masculine characteristics tending to be associated with high ratings of dominance. Finally, 2D:4D measurements were made using three different techniques. High (feminine) values of 2D:4D were associated with feminine facial characteristics in women, but not in men. It was concluded that certain aspects of facial development are governed by factors that are established prenatally. These aspects may be associated with perceptions of the self by others that are important in the social environment.

Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., & Roberts, S. C. (2007). Facial appearance affects voting decisions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 18-27. » View paper at publisher's website

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Human groups are unusual among primates in that our leaders are often democratically selected. Faces affect hiring decisions and could influence voting behavior. Here, we show that facial appearance has important effects on choice of leader. We show that differences in facial shape alone between candidates can predict who wins or loses in an election (Study 1) and that changing context from war time to peace time can affect which face receives the most votes (Study 2). Our studies highlight the role of face shape in voting behavior and the role of personal attributions in face perception. We also show that there may be no general characteristics of faces that can win votes, demonstrating that face traits and information about the environment interact in choice of leader.

Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., & Feinberg, D. R. (2007). Social transmission of face preferences among humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 274, 899-903. » View paper at publisher's website

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Previous studies demonstrating mate choice copying effects among females in non-human species have led many researchers to propose that social transmission of mate preferences may influence sexual selection for male traits. Although it has been suggested that social transmission may also influence mate preferences in humans, there is little empirical support for such effects. Here, we show that observing other women with smiling (i.e. positive) expressions looking at male faces increased women's preferences for those men to a greater extent than did observing women with neutral (i.e. relatively negative) expressions looking at male faces. By contrast, the reverse was true for male participants (i.e. observing women with neutral expressions looking at male faces increased male participant's preferences for those men to a greater extent than did observing women smiling at male faces). This latter finding suggests that within-sex competition promotes negative attitudes among men towards other men who are the target of positive social interest from women. Our findings demonstrate that social transmission of face preferences influences judgments of men's attractiveness, potentially demonstrating a mechanism for social transmission of mate preferences.


Burriss, R. P., & Little, A. C. (2006). Effects of partner conception risk phase on male perception of dominance in faces. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 297-305. » View paper at publisher's website | download PDF

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Several studies have suggested that women may prefer to engage in extra-pair copulations with males who appear dominant and to do so near ovulation. While there is some evidence that males are more jealous of dominant rivals and more proprietary when their partners are near ovulation, there is none that suggests the existence of counterstrategic perceptual shifts that mirror those seen in women. We provide such evidence here. Composites of male faces that were either high or low in rated dominance were presented to male participants who provided ratings of dominance. A threeway interaction between stimulus-face dominance, partner conception risk phase, and partner oral contraceptive use was found; men whose partners did not use an oral contraceptive and were in the high conception risk phase of their cycle displayed increased dominance ratings of high-dominance male faces. We conclude that males have evolved counterstrategies to deal with female infidelity that include an overattribution of dominance to those rivals most likely to present a threat at times when that threat is greatest. This overattribution is likely to lead to increases in jealousy and materetention behaviors.

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I blog about new research on the psychology of attraction. Here are the most recent posts.

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