Sex ratio influences the motivational salience of facial attractiveness

Hahn, Amanda C. and Fisher, Claire I. and DeBruine, Lisa M. and Jones, Benedict C. (2014) Sex ratio influences the motivational salience of facial attractiveness. Biology Letters, 10 (6). 20140148. ISSN 1744-9561

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    Abstract

    The sex ratio of the local population influences mating-related behaviours in many species. Recent experiments show that male-biased sex ratios increase the amount of financial resources men will invest in potential mates, suggesting that sex ratios influence allocation of mating effort in humans. To investigate this issue further, we tested for effects of cues to the sex ratio of the local population on the motivational salience of attractiveness in ownsex and opposite-sex faces. We did this using an effort-based key-press task, in which the motivational salience of facial attractiveness was assessed in samples of faces in which the ratio of male to female imageswas manipulated. The motivational salience of attractive opposite-sex, but not own-sex, faceswas greater in the own-sex-biased (high competition for mates) than in the oppositesex-biased (low competition for mates) condition. Moreover, this effect was not modulated by participant sex. These results present new evidence that sex ratio influences human mating-related behaviours. They also present the first evidence that the perceived sex ratio of the local population may modulate allocation of mating effort in women, as well as men.