Evolutionary psychology of altruism and mate choice

Men do not have a stronger preference than women for self-resemblant child faces

Paola Bressan, Marco Bertamini, Alessandra Nalli, Arianna Zanutto

Are men more likely than women to take into account a child’s facial resemblance to themselves when making hypothetical parental investment choices? The benefits of self-resemblance in decreasing relatedness uncertainty are larger in men than in women for direct descendants. However, they are identical in men and women for collateral relatives, such as siblings, cousins, nephews, and nieces; these individuals can also be the recipients of parental-like altruism, which comes primarily from women. Published data are contradictory. In the present study, 14 men and 14 women were shown child faces and asked to judge their attractiveness, adoptability, and familiarity. The faces had been digitally manipulated to resemble (at three different resemblance levels, two of which were under recognition threshold) either the experimental participant, an acquaintance, or strangers. We found a significant preference for self-resemblant children in women, but not in men. This was not an artefact of women being better at detecting self-resemblance, given that at the highest resemblance level more men than women recognized themselves. Overall, face preference increased with face familiarity; for self-resemblant faces, this correlation was not mediated by conscious self-recognition. We discuss how the fast-response, multiple-question procedure used in previous experiments may have led to reports of a much larger self-resemblance preference in men than in women.

Bressan, P., Bertamini, M., Nalli, A., & Zanutto, A. (2009). Men do not have a stronger preference than women for self-resemblant child faces. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 657-664.

child morphs

These faces are morphs, containing 25%, 40%, and 50% of a female participant's traits.

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