Effects of menstrual cycle phase on face preferences

Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. DeBruine, David I. Perrett, Anthony C. Little, David R. Feinberg, Miriam J. Law Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


While many studies of face preferences have emphasized high agreement among individuals about the types of faces they consider attractive and unattractive, other studies have demonstrated systematic variation in face preferences. Here, we review the evidence that women's preferences for masculinity, apparent health, and self-resemblance in faces change systematically during the menstrual cycle. Our review focuses on the proximate mechanisms that might underpin these changes (i.e., what changes in hormone levels are important for effects of menstrual cycle phase) and the possible functions of these changes (i.e., to maximize the likelihood that offspring inherit strong immune systems or to increase the likelihood of successful pregnancy by either promoting affiliation with individuals who will provide support and care during pregnancy or by promoting strategies to avoid contagion during social interactions). While evidence that differentiates between these two accounts of the function of cyclic shifts in face preferences is currently equivocal for masculinity preferences, there is compelling evidence that the function of the effects of menstrual cycle phase on preferences for apparent health and self-resemblance in faces is to increase the likelihood of successful pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2008
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • facial attractiveness
  • social perception
  • mate preferences
  • hormones
  • menstrual cycle
  • womens preferences
  • sexual-dimorphism
  • salivary testosterone
  • mating preferences
  • apparent health
  • evolution
  • pregnancy
  • judgements
  • sickness


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