Sex-specificity in the reward value of facial attractiveness

Hahn, Amanda C. and Fisher, Claire I. and DeBruine, Lisa M. and Jones, Benedict C. (2016) Sex-specificity in the reward value of facial attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45 (4). pp. 871-875. ISSN 1573-2800 (

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Studies of the sex-specificity of sexual arousal in adults (i.e., the tendency to respond more strongly to preferred-sex individuals than non-preferred sex individuals) have suggested that heterosexual men, homosexual men, and homosexual women show stronger sex-specific responses than do heterosexual women. Evidence for a similar pattern of results in studies investigating the reward value of faces is equivocal. Consequently, we investigated the effects of (1) sexual orientation (homosexual vs. heterosexual), (2) sex (male vs. female), (3) image sex (preferred-sex vs. non-preferred-sex), and (4) the physical attractiveness of the individual shown in the image on the reward value of faces. Participants were 130 heterosexual men, 130 homosexual men, 130 heterosexual women, and 130 homosexual women. The reward value of faces was assessed using a standard key-press task. Multilevel modeling of responses indicated that images of preferred-sex individuals were more rewarding than images of non-preferred-sex individuals and that this preferred-sex bias was particularly pronounced when more physically attractive faces were presented. These effects were not qualified by interactions involving either the sexual orientation or the sex of our participants, however, suggesting that the preferred-sex bias in the reward value of faces is similar in heterosexual men, homosexual men, heterosexual women, and homosexual women.