Nonverbal Physical Attractiveness In Women Is A Marker Of Reproductive Success
Christopher Philip

14503842075_b31d2d28d1_zOne often wonders about the “superficial” obsession driving men’s desires to be with attractive and sexy women. Additionally, science has struggled to define exactly why men would fixate on attractiveness over other cues including say resourcefulness or character, which has been found to be highly attractive in men and trumpeted as more than skin deep, thus more worthy of one’s attention.

However, recent research led by Lena S. Pflügera University of Vienna, has found evidence that facial attractiveness as determined at young adulthood predicts overall reproductive success in women. However, this trend was only evident in the women who never used hormonal contraceptives (contraceptives eliminate reproductive advantages by eliminating pregnancy). This falls in line with the previous assumption that women’s fertility was closely linked to women’s facial attractiveness and thus justifies the value men place upon it.

In order to carry out the research, it was necessary to sample women from rural areas (mostly mountain farmers). Specifically, 88 women were sampled in Carinthia, Austria. Photographs of the women were taken from young adulthood (usually at their wedding). Updated photographs were also taken in order to recreate the more fertile face in a morphological assessment.

Overall women who never used hormonal contraceptives showed a positive relation between facial attractiveness at youth and overall reproductive success (they had more children). This was adjusted for age, years of marriage and income.

It was found that faces corresponding to decreased attractiveness and therefore few children, had thinner lips, flatter noses, broader eyebrows, and more angular jaws than the consensus.

Faces that had higher levels of attractiveness and therefore a greater number of children corresponded to fuller lips, smaller and more tapered noses, higher arched eyebrows and less angular jaws as compared to the consensus.

Interestingly, the factors associated with fertility were still present in women postmenopausally, suggesting that attractiveness persists.

Overall, the results support the idea that facial attractiveness at least partially indicates overall reproductive success, and is a relevant marker for men in selecting the desirable mates as it is a clue to fertility.

Image Credit: János Csongor Kerekes


Pflügera, Lena S.; Elisabeth Oberzauchera; Stanislav Katina; Iris J. Holzleitnera and Karl Grammer. Cues to Fertility: Perceived Attractiveness and Facial Shape Predict Reproductive Success. Evolution and Human Behavior 33. 2012. 708-714.