[Paleopsych] Toronto Star: A beautiful combination

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A beautiful combination

                                                      MIRIAM J. LAW SMITH

     These are composite images of the faces of 10 women with the highest
     level of estrogen and 10 women with the lowest levels.The composite
    image of 10 women with high estrogen levels is on the left. Men chose
                   it as the most attractive in the study.

    Researchers link estrogen to looks
    Nov. 13, 2005. 07:50 AM


    Beauty, as it turns out, isn't skin deep. A study at the University of
    St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, has shown that attractiveness in
    females relates to the hormonal composition of blood.

    Researchers found that men tend to be attracted to women who have high
    levels of estrogen, a naturally occurring sex hormone linked to
    fertility. The report also found that women with high estrogen levels
    had more feminine features, such as bigger eyes, fuller lips and
    smoother skin.

    The researchers photographed 59 women between 18 and 25, who were
    wearing no makeup, and took a urine sample from each subject for
    hormone analysis. A group of men then rated the women in the
    photographs for health, femininity and attractiveness.

    The results showed that men were most attracted to the women who
    tested for high levels of estrogen. Miriam Law Smith, who helped carry
    out the research, says men were, in effect, choosing the women best
    poised to bear children.

    "From an evolutionary point of view, it would now make sense that men
    prefer feminine female faces because those are the women who have
    higher estrogen levels, and who are ultimately more fertile," says Law
    Smith. "In our evolutionary past, men who favoured women with feminine
    features would be choosing the more fertile female, thus would have
    had more babies and be passing on more of their genes."

    The study also suggests cosmetics do much more than merely add a touch
    of colour to a woman's face.

    Law Smith believes women wear makeup to mimic the facial cues that
    allude to heightened fertility. A woman with low levels of estrogen,
    then, would be more likely to wear more makeup.

    "What we think is happening here is that women are using makeup to
    cover up the cues of low fertility that would normally be found in the
    face," she says.

    It seems to work. In an alternate test, photographs were taken of the
    same women, this time wearing makeup. The rankings showed no
    correlation between beauty and estrogen levels. The women had
    successfully mimicked the facial fertility cues.

    Law Smith has been asked repeatedly if the study will result in new
    beauty treatments.

    The point of the experiment, she says, was not to find a way to
    enhance female beauty but to explore the workings of human attraction.
    She points out that while estrogen supplements have been known to
    clear up skin, they aren't likely to give a developed woman more
    feminine features.

    "We wouldn't suggest that this research could implicate the use of
    estrogen supplements to improving women's (attractiveness)," says Law
    Smith. "I would never recommend giving adults or adolescents estrogen
    in the hope that it would make them more attractive."

    That men are hardwired to be attracted to the women at the peak of
    fertility an affinity that doesn't lessen with men's age seems to
    paint a bleak picture for older women.

    But Smith Law says the test shows only men's initial reaction and
    doesn't take into consideration the other elements that come into play
    when choosing a partner.

    Interestingly, the phenomenon doesn't appear to apply when the genders
    are switched.

    "Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine-looking
    faces, but it's different in terms of determining attractiveness
    because masculine men aren't always found more attractive," says Law

    "Females tend to have a lot more variation on what they find
    attractive. A handsome, rugged man might ultimately not make a good
    father... Multiple motives contribute to female preference, whereas
    male preference, across all cultures and time, tend to favour the most
    feminine-looking females."

    Answer: The composite image of 10 women with high estrogen levels is
    the one on the left.

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