Certain features of the face are built by testosterone,” said Helen Fisher.
Those stereo-typically masculine features include a strong, square jaw, prominent brow ridges, high cheekbones, thin lips and a high forehead.
What is a bit spooky is that upper body strength can even be read on a person’s face.
What it is in the face that indicates upper body strength,” said Sell. He suggests that the correlation may lie in the heavier brow ridge and thicker jaw that result from increased levels of testosterone. “Many studies have been done on the effects of testosterone on the face. There’s a good chance testosterone is involved in regulating the body for battle, and men with high testosterone –– those with a heavy brow ridge and thicker jaw –– developed bodies that were more prepared for combat.”
“One reason we evolved the ability to perceive physical strength in the face may be that it’s where we focus our attention when we look at someone,” said Cosmides.
“Even if we are able to see someone’s body, we always look at the face. It’s so rich in social information –– what a person is thinking or feeling –– and adding the assessment of physical strength is a huge benefit. A person who is angry and strong offers a much greater threat than the person who is angry but weak.”
In men, the mechanism is a barometer for measuring potential threats and determining how aggressive or submissive they should be when facing a possible enemy. For women, the mechanism helps identify males who can adequately protect them and their children. Men have a lot more experience with rough and tumble play and direct experience with fighting, yet women are just as good at assessing these variables. The authors also point out that neither men nor women fare as well in assessing women’s strength. This is entirely expected because, ancestrally, inflicting violence was mostly the province of men.
A mechanism exists within the human brain that enables people to determine with uncanny accuracy the fighting ability of men around them by honing in on their upper body strength. What’s more, that assessment can be made even when everything but the men’s faces are obscured from view.
“Whether people are assessing toughness or strength, it’s upper body strength they implicitly register. And that’s the critical information our ancestors needed in deciding –– or feeling –– whether to surrender a disputed resource or escalate aggressively.”
Because testosterone is actually a caustic substance that is tough on the body, men with such testosterone-sculpted faces are signaling that they have a robust immune system that can withstand the chemical, Fisher said.
For instance, men with more masculine faces have fewer respiratory illnesses in their health records, and better immune responses to vaccines, DeBruine said.
Of course, for some women, such manly faces are a turnoff because these manly men are perceived as less willing to commit to their partners or raise a family.
“Some women really like ultra-masculine guys and some women really dislike them,” DeBruine said. “Even the same woman will like different things at different times or different life stages.”
And many women have had bad experiences with extremely handsome men.
Men tend to be more consistent in what they find attractive.