Low stress levels increase male attractiveness to women: Study

The study also showed that female attraction to men with low stress levels was at its highest during the fertile phase of the female menstrual cycle.

Written by Ashok Kumar(IndianExpress.com) | New Delhi | Published: October 5, 2010 9:17:08 pm

According to a new research conducted at the University of Abertay Dundee,Scotland,men with low stress levels are comparatively more attractive to women than their highly stressed counterparts.

A research team led by Dr Fhionna Moore,a psychology lecturer at Abertay University,investigated the connection between hormones and attractiveness. By analysing hormone levels in young men and developing ‘composite’ images of typical faces,the team endeavoured to find how attractive,a group of women,found facial cues to different hormone levels.

Talking about the participation of women during the research,Dr Fhionna said,”Women were generally very willing to participate,though responses were anonymous and confidential”.

“The most interesting finding was that women preferred the faces of men with cues to low stress,but didn’t express preferences for cues to testosterone. This is contrary to previous research and shows that stress may play an important role in female mate choice,” Fhionna added.

The study also showed that female attraction to men with low stress levels was at its highest during the fertile phase of the female menstrual cycle.

“We believe that the link between low stress levels and high attractiveness to women is because an ability to handle stressful situations suggests a strong genetic make-up,the future suitability of a partner and their ability to pass on ‘good genes’ to their children,” she said.

The study,titled,’Low stress levels ‘increase male attractiveness to women’,which was published (Wednesday,15 September 2010) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal,found a strong link between low levels of the stress hormone,cortisol,in men and how attractive they were to women. It was also discovered that there was no clear link between attractiveness and high levels of the sex hormone testosterone,as has been previously claimed.

By contrast,the researchers believe that men with low stress levels are in fact more attractive,partly because this suggests ‘strong’ genes to be passed on to offspring.

Dr Fhionna maintains that previous studies suggested a link between high levels of testosterone and greater attractiveness because of health benefits,as only males with a strong immune system could cope with high levels of this sex hormone.

“ However,our study suggests this may not be the case at all. We analysed different levels and combinations of cortisol and testosterone and found a strong link between low cortisol levels – which is present when someone has low stress levels – and being highly attractive to women,” Dr. Fhionna said.

“ Interestingly,our research also showed increased attractiveness for men with consistent hormone levels. So low cortisol and low testosterone,or high cortisol and high testosterone,were both found to be more attractive than one level being high and the other low,” she added.

The research was split into two separate experiments: While the first looked separately at testosterone and cortisol levels and attractiveness,the second used computer imaging software to prepare ‘composite’ faces representing different mixes of hormone levels.

Four images were presented to the female participants,representing high cortisol and high testosterone,high cortisol and low testosterone,low cortisol and high testosterone,and low cortisol and low testosterone.

The greatest attractiveness was found for low cortisol levels,particularly in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. This gives strength to the ‘good genes’ analysis – where calmer responses to hazardous situations give an evolutionary advantage – which has been previously shown by other researchers working with zebra finches.

Furthermore,an advantage was found for cortisol and testosterone levels being both low or both high,but only during the non-fertile phase,suggesting a difference in choices depending on the risk of successful conception.

When asked,to what extent this study which has used male faces and female raters from the UK only,be generalised Dr Fhionna said,“We could predict differences in these relationships across countries,depending on the demands of the economic and social environment. This is something I am currently investigating with collaborators from Europe.”

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