It is often believed that masculine men and more feminine women were prized in ancient societies and that modern culture is beyond gender simplifications, but a
team of psychologists, anthropologists and biologists that surveyed 12 populations around the world, from the primitive to the highly developed, find that isn't so.
It's not an evolutionary preference passed down through genes, it is a modern convention of urban societies. Only in more developed lands are highly feminine women and highly masculine men most attractive. Look at how Huffington Post gushed over the audition of actor Jason Momoa for "Game Of Thrones" - but to Maori people in New Zealand it was a nonsensical haka and not masculine at all.
Clearly Huffington Post writers need to get out of the city a little more. The new paper confirms that, noting that masculine males appear aggressive increased with urbanization.
A total of 962 participants were shown sets of three opposite-sex composite and digitally manipulated photos. For each set of photographs, representing five different ethnic groups, participants were asked which face was most attractive and which appeared most aggressive.
Andrew Clark, Lecturer in psychology at Brunel University London, says, "We digitally morphed masculine and feminine faces from photographs of people to find out what choices people from small-scale societies made. We found that they didn't place the same emphasis on 'sex typicality', that is, on highly feminine women and highly masculine men. In fact, they often favored the neutral face, and sometimes the least "sex-typical" one.
"This data challenges the theory that exaggerated sex-specific traits were important for social and sexual selection in ancestral environments. Preferences for sex typical faces are a novel phenomenon of modern environments. It's probably not a consistent thread in human history."
The team suggest that highly developed environments with large, dense populations may have exposed individuals to a greater range of unfamiliar faces, providing the opportunity - and perhaps motive - to discover subtle relationships between facial traits and behavior.