Women's preferences for men's beards show no relation to their ovarian cycle phase and sex hormone levels

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Abstract

According to the ovulatory shift hypothesis, women's mate preferences for male morphology indicative of competitive ability, social dominance, and/or underlying health are strongest at the peri-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. However, recent meta-analyses are divided on the robustness of such effects and the validity of the often-used indirect estimates of fertility and ovulation has been called into question in methodological studies. In the current study, we test whether women's preferences for men's beardedness, a cue of male sexual maturity, androgenic development and social dominance, are stronger at the peri-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle compared to during the early follicular or the luteal phase. We also tested whether levels of estradiol, progesterone, and the estradiol to progesterone ratio at each phase were associated with facial hair preferences. Fifty-two heterosexual women completed a two-alternative forced choice preference test for clean-shaven and bearded male faces during the follicular, peri-ovulatory (validated by the surge in luteinizing hormone or the drop in estradiol levels) and luteal phases. Participants also provided for one entire menstrual cycle daily saliva samples for subsequent assaying of estradiol and progesterone. Results showed an overall preference for bearded over clean-shaven faces at each phase of the menstrual cycle. However, preferences for facial hair were not significantly different over the phases of menstrual cycle and were not significantly associated with levels of reproductive hormones. We conclude that women's preferences for men's beardedness may not be related to changes in their likelihood of conception.

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