Saturday, February 25, 2012

The eye of the beholder?

Gender asymmetry in preferences for male and female faces (Lewis, 2012)

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This proverb is true in the sense that beauty is a mental judgment—an output of different algorithms within the human brain. Some of these algorithms have been formed by personal experience, but others are hardwired to varying degrees. There is thus an objective side to human beauty.

And yet human populations differ greatly in physical appearance. Does this mean that each population has evolved its own notions of beauty? This was Darwin’s view when he wrote The Descent of Man and Selection in relation to Sex. “The different races of man differ in their taste for the beautiful” (Darwin, 1936 [1888], p. 888).

Yet Darwin himself doubted this view:

Mr. Winwood Reade, however, who has had ample opportunities for observation, not only with the negroes of the West Coast of Africa, but with those of the interior who have never associated with Europeans, is convinced that their ideas of beauty are on the whole the same as ours; and Dr. Rohlfs writes to me to the same effect with respect to Bornu and the countries inhabited by the Pullo tribes. Mr. Reade found that he agreed with the negroes in their estimation of the beauty of the native girls; and that their appreciation of the beauty of European women corresponded with ours. They admire long hair, and use artificial means to make it appear abundant; they admire also a beard, though themselves very scantily provided. Mr. Reade feels doubtful what kind of nose is most appreciated; a girl has been heard to say, "I do not want to marry him, he has got no nose;" and this shows that a very flat nose is not admired (Darwin, 1936 [1888], p. 888).

In a footnote, Darwin added that the Amerindians of Tierra del Fuego consider European women to be extremely beautiful and that Sir Richard Burton "believes that a woman whom we consider beautiful is admired throughout the world" (Darwin, 1936 [1888], p. 888).

These opinions, which Darwin ultimately discounted, nonetheless have support from developmental psychology. Notions of human beauty seem to develop along similar lines in all humans. Children as young as 2-3 months old look longer at female faces that adults have rated as attractive, be they white infants looking at faces of black women rated by black men or black infants looking at faces of white women rated by white men (Langlois et al., 2000; Langlois et al., 1991; Langlois et al., 1987; Langlois and Stephen, 1977). Similar findings have been obtained with adults of various racial/ethnic origins (Bernstein et al., 1982; Cunningham et al., 1995; Maret, 1983; Miller, 1969; Perrett et al., 1994).

In the most comprehensive of these studies, Cunningham et al. (1995) assessed criteria of female beauty among men of different ethnic backgrounds: Taiwanese, White Americans, Black Americans, and recently arrived Asian and Hispanic students. All of them perceived a female face to be more attractive when possessing high eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, small nose, narrow face with thin cheeks, large smile, full lower lip, small chin, and fuller hairstyle.

To be sure, the East Asian men tended to prefer more immature and inexpressive faces whereas the Black American men tended to prefer women with larger buttocks and a heavier body build. These differences in preference, however, are much smaller than the differences in physique that actually exist among human populations.

So what happens when physically different populations come into contact with each other? Are some judged to be better looking than others? And is there consensus on this judgment?

This question is not easy to answer. By “not easy” I don’t mean in an analytical way. I mean we normally view it through the lens of a certain paradigm, i.e., European dominance. Europeans have dominated the world for almost five centuries, and this geopolitical dominance has presumably shaped notions of human beauty throughout the world. Ask almost anyone, and you’re bound to hear this explanation.

There was of course a time when Europeans were weaklings on the world scene. Geopolitical power used to be centered on the Middle East, and on several occasions Arab or Turkish empires almost overran Europe. Yet throughout this time European women fetched high prices in the Middle East as concubines or wives, specifically because of their physical appearance. The term “white slavery”—now a synonym for prostitution—harks back to this largely forgotten trade in human flesh.

Today, the long period of European dominance is coming to an end. Perhaps this question can now be answered more objectively. A new attitude is being shown for example by psychologist Michael Lewis, who has sought to explain why interracial marriages are highly asymmetrical by gender:

A striking aspect of the data on interracial marriages is the size of the gender asymmetries. These asymmetries appear robust across time and culture. […] there are over twice as many marriages between Black men and White women than between White men and Black women in the US. An observed consequence of this pattern is a decline in marriage rates for Black women, which has been described in the US as the ‘marriage squeeze’. The asymmetry is smaller in the UK but still present.

The gender asymmetries are even larger for marriages that include Asian and White people. In this situation, however, it is the number of White men marrying Asian women that is over twice the number of White women marrying Asian men. The largest asymmetry shows that marriages between Black men and Asian women in the US outnumber those between Asian men and Black women by about five to one.
(Lewis, 2012)

In the past, these asymmetries were explained as a tradeoff between “caste advantage” and “class advantage.” A wealthier Black man would exchange his class advantage for the caste advantage of a poorer White woman. As Lewis (2012) notes, however, “interracial marriages show the same degree of similarity between partners’ status as same-race marriages.”

Another explanation is that interracial marriage occurs when the man and the woman can afford its social cost (fewer career opportunities, weaker support network, etc.). This explanation likewise fails: interracial couples are not richer on average. If they were, we would also expect to see more White man /Black woman marriages, since White men are on average richer than Black men and can more easily pay the social cost.

Lewis then addresses racial differences in height as a possible explanation, i.e., women tend to seek taller mates and men tend to seek shorter mates. While this might explain the tendency of White men to marry East Asian women, it’s a poor fit for Black/White marriages. Black men and White men don’t differ enough in height to account for the gender asymmetry of such marriages.
Finally, Lewis addresses the possibility that this gender asymmetry may reflect an underlying asymmetry in sexual attractiveness: “If there are differences between the relative attractiveness of the genders between different races then asymmetries in interracial marriage will follow.” To this end, he asked male and female volunteers to rate the attractiveness of human faces that differed by ethnicity and gender. Of the male raters, 15 were White, 2 were Black, and 3 were Asian. Of the female raters, 14 were White, 3 were Black, and 3 were Asian.

The results are shown at the top of this post. Female raters gave the highest ratings to Black men, followed by White men and East Asian men. Male raters gave the highest ratings to East Asian women, followed by White women and Black women. There was no significant interaction between the race of the rater and the race of the face being rated.

The results replicate earlier findings that Black men are rated as more attractive than White men. It was further found that Asian men were rated as less attractive than either other race. For women the pattern was reversed with Asian women being rated as most attractive followed by White women and then Black women. The patterns observed occurred regardless of the race of the person doing the ratings.

The results are consistent with the patterns we see in interracial marriage. On the basis of census data, Lewis argues that the two asymmetries are an almost perfect match.

And my research?

These results are also somewhat consistent with my own studies. One of them indicated that the hormone estrogen orients women toward darker male skin. The young female participants were shown facial photos: three pairs of female faces and three pairs of male faces. Each pair was identical except for a slight difference in complexion, and the participant had to choose the face she liked the most. The choices, as it turned out, varied with the phase of the menstrual cycle. The darker male face was more strongly preferred by participants in the first two-thirds of the cycle (when estrogen levels are high in relation to progesterone levels) than by those in the last third (when estrogen levels are low in relation to progesterone levels). Menstrual cycle phase did not affect face preference if both faces were female or if the participants were taking oral contraceptives (Frost, 1994b).

There is also my cross-cultural study with Pierre van den Berghe. We found a strong tendency in traditional cultures, whether European or non-European, to associate lighter skin with women. This gender asymmetry seems to hold up over different historical periods and types of society. It seems, in fact, to reflect an innate sex difference in pigmentation. Women are paler and men browner and ruddier because of differing amounts of melanin and hemoglobin in the skin’s outer layers. This is a genuine sexual dimorphism that correlates with other aspects of sexual differentiation, e.g., digit ratio, thickness of subcutaneous fat, timing of puberty, etc. (Frost, 2011; van den Berghe & Frost, 1986).

Nonetheless, there are significant differences between my findings and Michael Lewis’. The cross-cultural study showed a general preference for lighter-skinned women, but only at the lighter end of the local range of skin color. We see this in folk terminology. Traditionally, a beautiful woman was ‘white’ in Europe and East Asia, ‘golden’ in Southeast Asia, and ‘red’ in sub-Saharan Africa.

As for my menstrual cycle study, the darker male face was indeed more strongly preferred by women in the first two-thirds of the menstrual cycle, i.e., when estrogen levels are high and not offset by progesterone. Yet, even in that group, there was still more preference for the lighter male face. In other words, estrogen seems to weaken a woman’s resistance to darker male skin, without reversing the direction of preference, at least not fully.

At the time, I attributed this result to my use of black-and-white photos. Had I used color photos, and thus accurately shown the ruddiness and brownness of male skin, more women might have opted for the darker male face. I also suspected that the darker male face was triggering negative mental associations in some participants (even though all of the faces looked ethnically ‘white’).

There is also the difference of twenty years between that study and Michael Lewis’. In the early 1990s, there were fewer images of blacks in popular culture, and those images tended to be male and female in equal proportions. Today, such images are not only more common but also overwhelmingly male. I’m not just thinking of the hip-hop scene. In general, eroticization of the black man has become much more mainstream in movies, popular entertainment, and poster advertising. Yes, black women also appear in this role, but they appear less often and tend to have European facial features and skin tone.

Finally, the ideological environment has changed over the past twenty years. In Lewis’ study, the White raters showed no tendency to prefer their own kind—an unusual finding in itself. Many of them may have thought long and hard before choosing a White face over a non-White one. Of course, this possible anti-White bias would not explain the gender asymmetry. It would simply shift all preferences towards the darker end of the color spectrum.

And that leads to another point. Perhaps some of the raters were unconsciously using East Asian preference as a proxy for White preference. In our current ideological environment, it is legitimate to admire East Asians for a wide range of good qualities: politeness, work ethic, self-discipline, attractive facial features, and so on. Such admiration incurs no social cost. So if you feel ashamed of your preference for White people, why not repackage it as East Asian preference?

Indeed, many social conservatives point to East Asians as a way of promoting values that once were mainstream in North American society. We see this, for instance, with the ‘tiger mom’ craze. We also see this in the frequent invidious comparisons that conservative economists make between the United States and China.

Sexual beauty and human physical differences

But how is it that humans look so different while sharing a similar sense of sexual beauty? Perhaps much of this physical variation is due to differences in sexual selection. Not differences in notions of beauty, as Darwin imagined, but rather differences in the intensity and direction of sexual selection.

In some populations, men competed against each other for access to women. This was especially so in tropical ‘horticulturalist’ societies where year-round farming enabled women to provide for themselves and their children with little male assistance. For men, the cost of taking a second wife was close to zero and may even have been negative. Such societies thus had a high polygyny rate and correspondingly intense male-male rivalry for mates. The pressure of sexual selection was therefore on men.

In other populations, women competed against each other for access to men. This was especially so in continental Arctic societies where men provided almost all the food and where long-distance hunting caused more deaths among young men than among young women. Such societies thus had a low polygyny rate and a surplus of women on the mate market. The pressure of sexual selection was therefore on women (Frost, 1994a, 2006, 2008).


Bernstein, I.H., Lin, T., and McClellan, P. (1982). Cross- vs. within-racial judgments of attractiveness. Perception & Psychophysics, 32, 495-503.

Cunningham, M.R., Roberts, A.R., Barbee, A.P., Druen, P.B., and Wu, C-H. (1995). "Their ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as ours": consistency and variability in the cross-cultural perception of female physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 261-279.

Darwin, C. (1936) [1888]. The Descent of Man and Selection in relation to Sex. reprint of 2nd ed., The Modern Library, New York: Random House.

Frost (2011). Hue and luminosity of human skin: a visual cue for gender recognition and other mental tasks, Human Ethology Bulletin, 26(2), 25-34.

Frost (2008). Sexual selection and human geographic variation, Special Issue: Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2(4),169-191.

Frost (2006). European hair and eye color - A case of frequency-dependent sexual selection? Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 85-103.

Frost (1994a).
Geographic distribution of human skin colour: A selective compromise between natural selection and sexual selection? Human Evolution, 9, 141-153.

Frost, P. (1994b). Preference for darker faces in photographs at different phases of the menstrual cycle: Preliminary assessment of evidence for a hormonal relationship, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79, 507-514.

Langlois, J.H., Kalakanis, L., Rubenstein, A.J., Larson, A., Hallam, M., and Smoot, M. (2000). Maxims or myths of beauty? A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 390-423.

Langlois, J.H., Ritter, J.M., Roggman, L.A., and Vaughn, L.S. (1991). Facial diversity and infant preferences for attractive faces. Developmental Psychology, 27, 79-84.

Langlois, J.H., Roggman, L.A., Casey, R.J., and Ritter, J.M. (1987). Infant preferences for attractive faces: Rudiments of a stereotype? Developmental Psychology, 23, 363-369.

Langlois, J.H., and Stephan, C. (1977). The effects of physical attractiveness and ethnicity on children's behavioral attributions and peer preferences. Child Development, 48, 1694-1698.

Lewis, M.B. (2012). A Facial Attractiveness Account of Gender Asymmetries in Interracial Marriage, PLoS ONE 7(2), e31703

Maret, S.M. (1983). Attractiveness ratings of photographs of Blacks by Cruzans and Americans. The Journal of Psychology, 115, 113-116.

Miller, E.L. (1969). Body image, physical beauty and colour among Jamaican adolescents. Social and Economic Studies, 18, 72-89.

Perrett, D.I., May, K.A., and Yoshikawa, S. (1994). Facial shape and judgements of female attractiveness. Nature, 368, 239-242.

van den Berghe, P.L. & P. Frost. (1986). Skin color preference, sexual dimorphism, and sexual selection: A case of gene-culture co-evolution?, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 9, 87-113.


Reader said...

The standards of beauty are surprisingly objective, and are not at all "in the eye of the beholder." That is a feel-good myth promulgated by the PC brigade.

David Buss writes in his 2003 book "The Evolution Of Desire": "The constituents of beauty are neither arbitrary nor culture bound. When the psychologist Michael Cunningham asked people of different races to judge the attractiveness of photographs of women of various races, he found great consensus about who is and is not good looking. Consensus has been found among the Chinese, Indian, and English; between South Africans and Americans; and between black and white Americans" (p. 54).

Beauty mostly has to do with facial symmetry. Symmetry is a marker of genetic fitness, since developmental problems usually perturb it.

Peter, I notice in your posts the tendency to describe pale/fair women as more desirable from the standpoint of the male gender, which is totally counter to what I observe every day. My experience has been that light-skinned, blonde-haired women are readily available on the dating market and there is very little competition for them. The real competition is for slightly darker brunettes, who are in very short supply on the dating scene. I am not sure why that is, but this is something I've observed.

Anonymous said...

I think that white women may at times be attracted to darker, non-white men but these same white women do not want to have chidden with darker, non-white men. For example, in my experience, blonde-haired, blue-eyed mothers want blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughters.

Inclusive fitness probably also figures into the decision. Frank Salter (On Genetic Interests, pg. 261) writes:

"For a person of English ethnicity, choosing an English spouse over a Dane gains less than one percent fitness. But choosing an English spouse over a Bantu, one yields a fitness gain of 92 percent....  The same applies in reverse order, so that a Bantu who chooses another Bantu instead of someone of English ethnicity has 92% more of his or her genes in offspring as a result.  It is almost the equivalent to having twice the number of children with an English spouse.  Thus assortative mating by ethnicity can have large fitness benefits, the largest derived from choosing mates within geographic races."

Here's a pretty frank account by an English woman who married a man from India and had a child:

""She's getting very dark, isn't she?" This is what one of my friends recently said about my much adored - 12-week-old daughter. She didn't mean to be rude. But it was a comment that struck me with the force of a jab to the stomach. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by a confusion of emotions. I felt protective, insulted, worried, ashamed, guilty, all at once. The reason? My lovely, wriggly, smiley baby is mixed race..... The truth is, whatever the label, the fact there is a label proves that my daughter's conflicting parentage matters....But when I turn to the mirror in my bedroom to admire us together, I am shocked. She seems so alien. With her long, dark eyelashes and shiny, dark brown hair, she doesn't look anything like me. I know that concentrating on how my daughter looks is shallow. She is a person in her own right, not an accessory to me. But still, I can't shake off the feeling of unease. I didn't realise how much her looking different would matter and, on a rational level, I know it shouldn't. But it does. Evolution demands that we have children to pass on our genes, hence the sense of pride and validation we get when we see our features reappearing in the next generation. With my daughter, I don't have that....But self-flagellation is not useful. I have more pressing concerns. I am now the mother of a 'black' child, even if she is more the hue of weak tea than espresso.... When she was born, pale but with lots of dark hair, I asked the midwife if her eyes would stay blue. 'Asian genes are very strong,' she said in what I took to be an ominous tone. No more Brady Bunch kids for me. The midwife has been proved right and every day my baby's eyes get a little darker."

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much the values assigned at the top are a product of explicit processing resulting from decades of political correctness: esp. the high status given to black males and Asian females in popular culture.

For instance, would people in England in the 19th century have assigned the same values? (Nineteenth-century Brits had ample photographs of black males and Asian females but they didn't have a mass media to promote certain values --- values which often conflict with what average people think.) Would Westerners throughout almost all of European history have assigned the same rankings?

Anonymous said...

Regarding same-race rankings, from my experience, white women may like men a little darker but they don't like swarthy men. For instance, these white women like men with the "black Irish" look (straight black hair, pale skin and blue eyes). Perhaps the black hair signifies dominance but the pale skin and blue eyes show responsibility and adaptive docility to a post-hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Also, with such men, these white women would be able to have fair-skinned daughters. However, in my experience, white women don't really like "swarthy" looking men for long-term partners. They may say swarthy men are good looking in pictures or on TV but in real life would prefer to date men with at least some fairer traits.

Also, Peter, how do you account for class differences in men in terms of skin tone? The class gaps in European countries (among ethnic Europeans) might be narrower but until recently it was regularly noted that upper-class men were fairer than lower-class men, and I don't think it was just exposure to sun from working in fields. The entire "blue blood" phenomenon truly denoted an aristocratic paradigm, even among men, that the upper-classes were fairer skinned.

Sean said...

Laura Betzig:- 'In China they had it down to a science. Yangdi, the 6th-century Sui dynasty emperor, was credited by an official historian with 100,000 women in his palace at Yangzhou alone," she said.

"They even had sex handbooks describing how to work out when a woman was fertile. Then they would be taken to the emperor to be impregnated.

"It was all organised by the state so the emperor could impregnate as many women as possible. And they had rules, like all the women had to be under 30 and all had to be attractive and symmetrical. This was the system in China for more than 2,000 years."'

Anonymous said...

What about Indians (Indian ones, not American Indians). They tend to have darker skin than Europeans but don't have negroid face features. Can they be used in some way as a control group when assessing the impact of skin color versus facial features?

Peter Frost said...


Hair color preference seems to be frequency-dependent, i.e., the less common the hair color, the more men prefer it. This was actually shown in a controlled study by Thelen. When men were shown a series of female faces, preference for any one brunette increased in proportion to the scarcity of brunettes in the series.

The same frequency dependence seems to influence male preference for other color traits, notably eye color and perhaps skin color. There is certainly anecdotal evidence that black prostitutes are more popular in regions where black women are less common.

In the case of skin color, there is a general preference in traditional societies for lighter-skinned women. Lighter skin seems to be part of a complex of visual cues (hairless pliable skin, childlike face shape, higher pitch of voice, etc.) that women have "borrowed" from the infant schema. I suspect that lighter female skin modifies male sexual desire, by reducing aggressive impulses and by stimulating feelings of care.

In Western societies, preference for tanned female skin went mainstream in the 1920s and has been largely dominant ever since. This fashion fad was facilitated by the use of heliotherapy for treatment of tuberculosis and rickets, but it seems to have been part of a general trend towards new sexual lifestyles.


A passing impulse isn't the same thing as something one wants over the long term.


Agreed. There is an interaction between values and the ideological environment. Ideology can favor certain values over others.


There is evidence that the upper classes in many countries are lighter-skinned than average. This is true even in ethnically homogeneous countries like Japan. Since upper-class men have "first pick" in the mate market, they're better able to select those women who are lighter-skinned than average. Over successive generations, their class thus becomes lighter than the general population.

Frederick Hulse did a study on this phenomenon in Japan.


Well, yes. But there are also class differences in natural increase (as Greg Clark noted). In Britain and Japan, internal population replacement was driven by monogamous middle-class households.


In the case of South Asians, there are a lot of messy cultural factors. Some Pakistani men, for instance, use coercion and free drugs to seduce white English girls.

Ben10 said...

If all these studies are based on the visual clue from a single picture of a human face, seen frontally and isolated in a neutral bacground, then I have a couple of comments.

1) what about the 3d clue? If the faces are displayed frontally, the facial topology is missing. The minimum would be to show the human faces frontally and from a 3/4 perspective. For example, the frontal view of a face is good to show perfectly symetric features but is incapable to show a slight prognathism and other angular ratios in the bone structure.

2) (which derives from 1) What about imperfections and combinations of desireable and non desirable features? In real life, people are rarely perfect. What about a perfectly symetric face, seen frontally, which nonetheless reveal some imperfection in a 3/4 perspective view? I've read that asian women are extremely abhorent of prognathism, which might partially explain their consistent crush for european males, since prognathism is almost absent in european populations. But would the typical asian female still choose an european male with a perfectly orthognathic face if he had also an assymetric nose or other less than perfect features ?

3) what about the environnemental clues in the picture?
I undestand that a white woman would choose a black male face by default. The inclusion of the picture of a lion in the scene would probably reinforce this choice, because by default, human are naked animals in front of predators. But in real life, the white man is never naked. He might have a gun in the picture, and this in turn might twist his emotional reaction in response to a lion. So, what about the woman's choice now, if she has to choose between a powerfully muscular, but basically naked black male who displays fear in front of the lion and a white man armed with a rifle who only display concentration because he's busy aiming at a target?

I understand that one can only test one parameter at the time but once it's done, i thought it might be interesting to combine parameters to have more real human faces in real situation.

Sean said...

Many of the white men married to Asian women (Thia and Filipino I see are a couple of decades older. Hollywood uses what works, there does not seem any over representation of Asian women playing the female lead in film. There are virtually no Asian males playing the lead roles.

White actresses or models who are paparazzied outside while not wearing make up, are noticeably paler in those photos than you would expect from seeing them in their films or posed shots with professional lighting & make up. But, Asian models ect in 'real life' look noticeably darker than their posed shots with pro make up and lighting.

Anonymous said...

"Peter, I notice in your posts the tendency to describe pale/fair women as more desirable from the standpoint of the male gender, which is totally counter to what I observe every day."

You're observing reproductive decisions or casual decisions?

Pamela said...

Reader said...
"Peter, I notice in your posts the tendency to describe pale/fair women as more desirable from the standpoint of the male gender, which is totally counter to what I observe every day."

This seems to run counter to most studies of online dating and counter to what I observe and experience. Perhaps you're in an unusual market. As such, it probably represents a strong dating market for the usual demand rather than the usual supply.

As Peter has noted, the rarity of blonde-haired women tends to produce a greater demand due to its rarity. Additionally, the paler-skinned female theory seems to be borne out in most cultures, as noted here many times. (The prevalence of tanning notwithstanding-- though it is interesting to note that the tan look is relative to a Western female ideal rather than a facsimile of a non-Western look.)

I do find it interesting that in the somewhat phallocentric HBD world, there seems to be a lot of "testerical" hostility to any information that affirms a Western female sensibility as opposed to a Western male one. This blog is a welcome counterbalance in its study of Western females.

"In the world of online dating, a head full of blonde hair is worth more than a college degree - and with a $100 dye job vs a 100,000 tution bill, awful lot cheaper." - Freakonomics

Reader said...

I live in the Northeastern US (NYC-DC). This area has a lot of dark "ethnics" of Italian, Jewish, Asian, Indian, and Eastern-European origin.

Whenever I go to a speed-dating event, a bar, or online, all the single men are dark "ethnics," while all the single women are Nordic blondes. I wish I could show you the pictures. The one or two 'ethnic' brunettes that I see are always married.

There's so many blonde women available that I myself have been approached by a few and I rejected them because they weren't my type.

Generally, dark-haired men are not interested in blondes. I know this not only from personal experience (I'm "ethnic") but also from talking to other men. They're all looking for brunettes who, for some reason, are nowhere to be found.

I do wish someone would look into this phenomenon because it's interesting and counterintuitive.

Sean said...

"Male raters gave the highest ratings to East Asian women"

If hormone balance in women is relevant to the skin tone they find attractive in the opposite sex, could the same also be true in men, eg digit ratio. I think the men may be untypical.

Grey said...

"There is evidence that the upper classes in many countries are lighter-skinned than average."

"Chinless" is an insult in the UK directed at the upper class. This also fits the idea of the upper class selecting a disproportionate number of the most feminine women over time and partially feminizing their offspring.

Ben10 said...

Peter, you could use this blog, or another blog, to test your hypothesis, at least for males,because i suspect your readers are mostly males, and not representative of the general population.
You could put pictures of faces online so that people could rate particular features in the form of comments.

Anonymous said...

There's so many blonde women available that I myself have been approached by a few and I rejected them because they weren't my type.

Generally, dark-haired men are not interested in blondes. I know this not only from personal experience (I'm "ethnic") but also from talking to other men. They're all looking for brunettes who, for some reason, are nowhere to be found.

I do wish someone would look into this phenomenon because it's interesting and counterintuitive.

Ethnic brunettes (e.g. attractive dark-skinned women like dark Latinas, Indians and Africans) are typically off the dating market early because we're not as sexualized by the populace as a whole. We marry early, have babies and focus on non-sexual pursuits such as reading, creating things and whatnot. I can only speak as a brown skinned woman but being of a darker skin tone has made me less sexualized and I have more opportunity for friendship. I will probably get snatched up and go leave the dating market because I don't put such emphasis on being sexy and having recreative sexual relations.

Reader said...

You're correct that brunettes get taken off the dating market early, much earlier than blondes. I've noticed that myself.

But that indicates to me that they *are* very much sexualized, contrary to what you wrote. They are apparently in very high demand, otherwise they would remain available into their older years like blondes.

Peter Frost said...


The photos were taken from Facebook pages. The author felt that such photos would be less artifical and more representative of real people.

I don't get the bit about placing a lion next to a black man to make him look sexier.


I suspect that many nerdy white males prefer East Asian females because they see them as being more accessible.


Men predominate in HBD circles because most men are social retards. They don't care a lot about what other people think of them. Women generally do care.


"Ethnic" women tend to marry earlier. When I was studying in Russia, I noticed that most women were already married and raising families in their early 20s.

This is a cultural thing. It has nothing to do with sexual attractiveness. It has more to do with reproductive capacity.

I know of only one controlled study of hair color preferences:

Thelen, T.H. (1983). Minority type human mate preference. Social Biology, 30, 162-180.

Thelen found an inverse correlation between preference for a hair color and the prevalence of that hair color. I suspect you're in a situation where single dark-haired women (a) tend to exit the dating scene earlier and (b) tend to be supervised much more closely by their parents.

Here in Canada we've had many cases of Muslim girls getting beaten up or even murdered because they were dating.


So far, the comments have been pretty negative about my wife's picture.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect that many nerdy white males prefer East Asian females because they see them as being more accessible."

I think people are underestimating the importance of height in this. Average or short white guys become tall or average relatively speaking. Apart from anything else this will effect their confidence.

"So far, the comments have been pretty negative about my wife's picture"

I like it.

Anonymous said...

All this “hoe farming breeds populations to have relatively hotter males than females, while living far north has the opposite effects” idea seems to make sense at first, yet at a second look some questions pop-up quite easily:
a) OK if you compare either Whites or Asians to Blacks. But what about their differences? Why are Asians somewhat more feminine than Whites (they certainly are smaller and more fragile, and have less facial hair) generally speaking, yet not on every aspect one could lay on a masculine/feminine continuum (i.e., they are darker)?
b) Why are Amerindians darker and more robust than Asians Proper (if my impression is correct), yet completely lack facial hair?
c) Are hoe-farming Papuans darker or otherwise more masculine than the Australoids of Australia?
d) Are asian women really that hot in the eye of ye other beholding white guys? I mean, yep, I like a girl to be cute and shorter than me (myself being a bit below the average of my South European coethnics), but beyond a certain point, doesn’t flatness get in the way?

Anonymous said...

" All of them perceived a female face to be more attractive when possessing high eyebrows, widely spaced large eyes with dilated pupils, high cheekbones, small nose, narrow face with thin cheeks, large smile, full lower lip, small chin, and fuller hairstyle."

Which makes it a bit surprising that Asian female faces would be ranked the highest, considering that they frequently tend not to have large round eyes. That said, a lot of east Asian celebrities have undergone double-eyelid surgery, and I wonder how many of them were featured in the survey.

I always considered Eurasian women to be extremely attractive, and I realized that this must because a great number of them have round Caucasian eyes and high Asian cheekbones, the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

"Whenever I go to a speed-dating event, a bar, or online, all the single men are dark "ethnics," while all the single women are Nordic blondes. I wish I could show you the pictures. The one or two 'ethnic' brunettes that I see are always married."

My completely unscientific explanation to your anecdotal evidence: Blonde hair only looks good on women in their early twenties and younger. Past that point, it starts to loose its golden luster and begins to resemble a dirty field of hay, and seem to make facial features appear more washed out.

Bleached blonde hair simply looks awful as it involves the elimination of all eumelanin, except for that in the roots as the hair regrows. It looks incredibly unnatural, and often clashes with the non-Nordic features of the women who bleach their hair. I'm not sure if men actually like that look, or if it's just one of those many things that women mistakenly think we like.

Ben10 said...

@ Peter, your wife's perfect, the leopard camouflage and the flat screen TV are the only thing i would remove...ahem pardon my french.

Seriously now, the lion story is about the missing context and the unknown environment, in which the face rating for attractiveness is made. There was an old paper about sexual selection among those pretty fishes, i think they were guppy fishes, in presence or in absence of a predator. The paper showed that in absence of a predator, the female guppy choose the brightest males, which in a couple of generation resulted in a very colorfull guppy population, while in presence of a predator the females choosed dull greyish males.

So the context matters during sexual selection. Now, instead of just a face, we can imagine a scene in which we put eurasian or african men, naked, in front of a lion, and let a multiracial sample of women decide of the most attractive males.
That is because 50-60 000 years old Africa is still, I believe, the environmental context used unconsiously 'by default' by women during sexual selection.
It is 'by default' because an isolated picture of a face provides no other clue about the environment, so the woman has to mentally build it and perhaps her atavic memory tells her to use the african environment as a safe bet. I very much doubt that postglacial europe or farming environments are the models used for these unconscious mental processes. Consciously, they may elaborate a mental story of how well a given face would perform as a farm boy, but this might strongly oppose their gut feelings.
In fact, including african male faces among a list of other faces could reinforce the inconscient perception that the unknown environment IS, indeed, Africa.
Can you discuss that?

That's why i suggested to remove or decrease the unconscious bias by putting the faces within an environment, rather than to let people imagine it.

Anonymous said...

As for bleach-blondness, it does look awful and slutty too, but as for girls’ idea of us liking it or not, it has to do with their confusion of our two basic kinds of “liking”… girls generally try to project an image of attractiveness, but also of (some necessary) accessibility, yet their left of the bell curve often fails to understand that too much of the second attracts no interest of the kind that could consider commitment, especially with individuals completely socializing within their half and thus lacking access to clues… there really are a lot of girls out there that fail to recognize that men are generally easy for uncommitted sex upon the slightest invitation, and genuinely perceive that the interest they see they can easily raise in their projected easiness really means they are soooo hot. I guess it is sad, especially when it confuses the norms in the wider society and/or exerts pressure on the population of the right side.

Anonymous said...

"OK if you compare either Whites or Asians to Blacks. But what about their differences?

I don't think you can take the result of this kind of study too far. The results are an average of the attractiveness rating based on a fairly cursory view which i'd guess would rate by facial symmetry, relative darkness and the presence or absence of typically masculine or feminine features. You would probably get the same result if you showed the same pictures but covered everything except the jaw.

"d) Are asian women really that hot in the eye of ye other beholding white guys?"

I don't think it's that. I think it's measuring how feminine the features are on average. Again you could probably get the same result just showing jaws.


Also bear in mind that white people couldn't come top because of PC and add in this is really about a broad distinction between tropical populations and everyone else because the hoe farming thing is tropical.

I expect the differences between the non-tropicals will be complex and possibly include some random elements.

RedZenGenoist said...

A confounder is that the Lewis Study (2012) uses people from the UK as representatives of Europeans.

Yet, famously, people from the UK are rated as the least attractive Europeans, on several studies.

Conversely, the East Asian sample is collected from "East Asia". Which presumably means, English-speaking parts of EA (so that the student could navigate the website), IE the wealthiest parts.

I believe that the Lewis 2012 study should be redone.

JayMan said...


Great point! I suppose it does pay to take another look at old posts.

I agree, we should totally redo this study with larger samples from representative locations.

Anonymous said...

This may shed some further insight on the blondes vs brunettes debate:

The average female porn star? A California-born brunette with a size 34B bra

joe luke said...

there is a study on selection done on my harmony and sites like that which shows what people really want and not what they say they want!you might look it up.