Most previous studies of face preferences have investigated the physical cues that influence face preferences. Far fewer studies have investigated the effects of cues to the direction of others' social interest (i.e. gaze direction) on face preferences. Here we found that unpartnered women demonstrated stronger preferences for direct gaze (indicating social interest) from feminine male faces than from masculine male faces when judging men's attractiveness for long-term relationships, but not when judging men's attractiveness for short-term relationships. Moreover, unpartnered women's preferences for direct gaze from feminine men were stronger for long-term than short-term relationships, but there was no comparable effect for judgements of masculine men. No such effects were evident among women with romantic partners, potentially reflecting different motivations underlying partnered and unpartnered women's judgements of men's attractiveness. Collectively these findings (1) complement previous findings whereby women demonstrated stronger preferences for feminine men as long-term than short-term partners, (2) demonstrate context-sensitivity in the integration of physical and social cues in face preferences, and (3) suggest that gaze preferences may function, at least in part, to facilitate efficient allocation of mating effort.
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