Salivary cortisol and pathogen disgust predict men's preferences for feminine shape cues in women's faces

Benedict C. Jones, Corey L. Fincher, Lisa L.M. Welling, Anthony C. Little, David R. Feinberg, Christopher D. Watkins, Emad A.S. Al-Dujaili, Lisa M. DeBruine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies suggest that individuals who are particularly concerned about infectious diseases show stronger preferences for exaggerated sex-typical characteristics in potential mates' faces. However, these studies have generally investigated individual differences in women's mate preferences and relied on questionnaires to assess disease-related concerns. Here we show that men's scores on the pathogen disgust subscale of the Three Domains of Disgust Scale are positively correlated with their preferences for femininity in women's faces and that this relationship is independent of the possible effects of both sexual and moral disgust. We then show that men with higher trait (i.e., average) salivary cortisol, a biomarker for immunosuppression, have stronger preferences for femininity in women's faces. Finally, we show that pathogen disgust is correlated with partnered men's femininity ratings of both their actual and ideal romantic partner. Together, these findings suggest that disease-related factors are important for individual differences in men's mate preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • cortisol
  • disgust
  • mate preferences
  • parasites
  • pathogens


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