The outcome of quite a number of studies revealed the kind of man women are drawn to in uncertain times. Three studies found that when women face uncertainty, they are more attracted to men with harsher facial traits. Men are more attracted to women with more tender facial features in the same situations. The findings were reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
Uncertainty is an essential component of human life, from pandemics to financial crises and political revolutions. Scholars differentiate between aleatory uncertainty (uncertainty resulting from the random and unpredictable nature of life events) and epistemic uncertainty (lack of confidence in one’s knowledge).
When confronted with both types of uncertainty, people tend to feel especially vulnerable. There are instances in which a person is confronted with an unforeseen scenario and is unable to assess the probabilities of various outcomes due to a lack of knowledge (unknown probabilities).
According to research, when confronted with ambiguity, people exhibit an increased demand for order and structure, embrace more radical attitudes, and enhance their belief in conspiracy theories.
They frequently engage in compensatory behaviors to mitigate the uncertainty of the circumstance.
They may grow more prone to making emotional decisions, increasing their support for various religious or secular systems. Also, develop preferences for environmental boundaries.
According to research, their attention moves to signs that create a sense of predictability. But do their preferences for the characteristics of romantic partners change?
What Kind of Man Women Are Drawn to in Uncertain Times
To answer this question, the researchers conducted three investigations with students and Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers. They expected that “under external uncertainty, women will prefer men with tougher (rather than more tender) facial traits, and men will prefer women with more tender (rather than tougher) facial features,” while these preferences would shrink or disappear under certainty.
They also thought that this occurs because people seek out stereotyped mate types in uncertain situations. This is in order to achieve predictability.
The first study enlisted the participation of 173 heterosexual Mturk workers. Students were told to think about or write about a situation in which they were unsure or certain (depending on the experimental situation). They were then instructed to assume they were looking for a date on an online dating site.
“After a brief introduction to online dating, they were shown tender and tough feature versions of four different male or female faces and asked to rate these faces on three items (‘I think this Candidate is attractive,’ ‘I like this Candidate,’ ‘I would like to go on a date with this Candidate’) on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), which was averaged into one attractiveness scale.”
In the second study, 174 heterosexual students took part. The approach was similar to the first study, with the exception that instead of rating the beauty of faces, participants were asked to indicate how much they were drawn to a caring spouse and how much they were drawn to a powerful relationship.
The Outcome of the First Study
The findings of the first study revealed that in uncertain conditions, women regarded rough male faces as more attractive than under assured conditions. In contrast, men regarded delicate female faces as more beautiful in unknown settings than under certain conditions.
“We believe that when people feel uncertain, they have an enhanced desire for gender-stereotyped relationship types (caring vs. strong), and as a result, they are more drawn to specific facial traits from which these stereotypical attributes might be inferred,” the researchers stated.
The second study shows men’s preferences for caring female relationships increased amid uncertainty. However, women’s choices for a strong male partner increased. These effects were not present in the certainty condition, as they were in the first study.
The third study asked 141 heterosexual students to visualize a specific type of woman/man as a spouse. One group was asked to envision a loving partner, while the other group was asked to imagine a strong partner.
They were then instructed to pretend they are not in a relationship and are looking for a date. Participants were then shown the Study 1 faces and asked to judge their attractiveness.
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The Third Study
The outcome of the third study showed that when males were asked to imagine a caring companion, they ranked soft facial traits as more attractive. When participants were asked to imagine a powerful mate, they evaluated tough facial features as slightly more attractive.
“The findings of the third study show that faces of the opposite sex with tender facial features are perceived as more attractive when people are looking for a partner with caring characteristics, whereas faces with tough facial features are perceived as more attractive when looking for a partner with strong characteristics (for men marginally so),” the researchers added.
“There is compelling evidence that people infer that a spouse is reassuring and caring from delicate facial features, and that a mate is protective and strong from harsh facial features,” the researchers added.
How Women Perceive Men With an Attractive Face
According to studies, women regard males with handsome looks as more desirable and socially dominant. Attractive facial characteristics such as symmetry, high cheekbones, and a strong jawline are frequently correlated with good health and genetic quality.
Physical appearance, however, is not the only factor that women evaluate when assessing possible partners. Additional factors that influence attraction and relationship formation include personality, intelligence, sense of humor, and social standing.
It’s also worth noting that views of attractiveness might differ depending on cultural and individual preferences. What appeals to one individual may not appeal to another.
The above research gives information on how uncertainty affects people’s opinions of attractiveness. It does, however, have restrictions that must be considered. Participants included both MTurk employees and students. The results from a more representative sampling of the overall population may differ.
Furthermore, attractiveness was judged based on photographs of faces, although real-life attractiveness assessments are likely to consider many more aspects of a possible spouse.