Sex steroids are supposed to moderate the differences between male and female facial characteristics. Studies on women's preferences for male faces reported increased preferences for facial architecture developed under the influence of testosterone as this may indicate masculinity, dominance and social status. Recent research demonstrates that facial sexual dimorphism does not only develop at puberty but may be organized much earlier in ontogeny. However, the actual cause and timing of variation in facial shape due to sex-steroids remains speculative. This study uses data from Neave and colleagues1 who measured digit ratio (2D:4D) as a proxy to prenatal testosterone and also salivary testosterone samples in order to study differential effects of androgens on perceived male facial shape. Male facial shape was regressed upon 2D:4D ratio and circulating levels of testosterone by means of geometric morphometric methods. We found some evidence for opposite effects of early androgen action (via 2D:4D ratio) on the upper and the lower face respectively (i.e. low 2D:4D ratio results in a relatively robust and prominent lower face), whereas circulating testosterone seems to cause a rather uniform elongation of the face. Local deformations primarily show pronounced and medially tailed eyebrows for the shapes associated with increasing salivary testosterone. These preliminary results suggest that prenatal and pubertal testosterone have differential effects on male facial shape that should be considered in future studies on women's preferences towards male facial appearance.
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2005|