Are You A Keeper? The Answer's In Your Face, Says Science

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Are You Marriage Material? Answer's In Your Face, Says Science
Love, Self

Bad news if you've got a feminine face ...

Do you have a "feminine face," as in a smaller jawbone, fuller cheeks, big eyes, and big lips? If so, we've got bad news for you: Men may view you as just a "quick fling," rather than long-term relationship potential — at least according to the results of a study.

Participants rated women with stereotypically feminine features — signs of higher estrogen, health, and youth (that's code for "will bear healthy, cute babies") — as nothing but summer lovin' potential. But when it comes to getting down on one knee and offering a lady the real deal, these men seem to prefer women with less conventionally attractive, i.e. more "masculine," faces.

The study, led by Anthony Little from the University of Stirling and Benedict Jones from the University of Glasgow and printed in the British Journal of Psychology, gave several hundred heterosexual males composite pictures of female faces, and asked them "bed or wed." They showed them two versions of each face: one with slightly more "feminine" and the other with slightly more "masculine" features.

Interestingly, men who were already in relationships exhibited an even higher preference for short-term flings with the feminine-faced women: "When a man has secured a mate, the potential cost of being discovered may increase his choosiness regarding short-term partners relative to unpartnered men, who can better increase their short-term mating success by relaxing their standards," wrote the study authors. It seems that with trying to avoid being cheated on while also trying not to "discovered," men are constantly engaged in a highly Machiavellian love game.

So what gives? Why don't these heterosexual men want to marry the women who from a biological point of view, have a higher chance of reproductive success (again, that's code for "healthy, cute babies")? According to the researchers, previous studies have found that attractive women are more likely to be unfaithful, particular if their partner is less than a looker. 

"Our study suggests that one of the reasons men like feminine [faces] more for short-term relationships is that they are seen as less likely to be faithful and more likely to be promiscuous," Little told YourTango. "It follows that, perhaps, feminine women may increase their attractiveness as long-term partners by giving off signals that they are likely to be faithful to a particular man."

Tough luck, attractive women. Turns out you have to work harder if you want long-term commitment

What Little told us sounds like a tricky evolutionary balancing act of "Don't Want To Be Cheated On" vs. "Do Want Hot Arm Candy." "I think the answer lies in a balance of your own and your partner's attractiveness," he said. "It is probably true that by lowering standards, it is possible to get a partner who is most likely to be faithful. But people do not want to lower their standards too much.

Individuals may, in fact, vary in how they balance their choices." It should be noted that studies have shown a similar preference in heterosexual women, who generally prefer a studlier man for a fling, but a nerdier one to settle down with, following the same logic of viewing the less-attractive men as more reliable.

Little was kind enough to give us a few examples of this theory at work in the celebrity world. The theory does hold up when it comes to the rom-com career of Jen Aniston: "Jennifer Aniston has a more angular face shape and thinner lips, making her more masculine than Angelina Jolie by comparison. In some ways this seems consistent with Jennifer Aniston's roles in romantic comedies — not being as extremely feminine as other actresses or models, both men and women may see her as more believable as a long-term love interest."

But it kind of comes crashing down when we think about Brangelina: Brad left relatively masculine-faced Jen for Angelina Jolie's large eyes, round face, and gigantic lips, after all. As far as celebs who've recently been in the news, Little said that Jessica Simpson, who just gave birth to baby #2 (but who has struggled to find long-term love post-Nick Lachey), has extremely feminine features.