Looking Younger…. Looking Less Masculine?
Egan & Cordan (2008) digitally altered the faces of 17-year-old girls (n=10) to look either younger (morphed to appear similar to the prototype of 10-year-old girls – top row) or older (similar to the prototype of 20-year-old women – bottom row). Additionally, some stimuli were altered by adding digital make-up (right column). The authors had forensic interests and were exploring the effect of alcohol consumption on judgments of age and attractiveness. As a result, they did not report the specific data on attractiveness ratings alone, but, did conclude that faces that appear younger are found more attractive. Raters consisted of an equal number of adult women and men between the ages of 18-70.
The faces were manipulated using proprietary software, Psychomorph. To my eye, the morphed images look good, though, there appear to be distortions in the ears of the “older” faces. Eye size, distance between eyes, lips, forehead height, hair, and clothes do not appear different (to my eye) between the “younger” and the “older” sample stimuli. Though there may be a sense of greater protrusion in the “older” forehead…. The primary apparent differences are a larger nose and longer lower face in the “older” version.
While we don’t have the specific data reported in this paper, the conclusions are consistent with what is generally asserted: looking young is attractive in human females. At least one contributing reason for this attraction to youthful appearance in female faces is the increased rate of development in male faces at puberty, relative to female faces. That is, men’s and women’s faces show the same growth spurt: but males show this growth more markedly. This variation results in larger noses, mandibles, and sinuses (along with brows and cheekbones) in men.
Since these areas are larger in men, larger features become masculine features. Since these facial features are smaller in women, smaller ones become feminine. Another way to conceptualize this: looking younger looks less masculine. To my way of thinking, this explains what might appear to be a disturbing preference in both men and women for female faces with some prepubescent structural characteristics.
Egan, V., & Cordan, G. (2009). Barely legal: Is attraction and estimated age of young female faces disrupted by alcohol use, make up, and the sex of the observer? British Journal of Psychology, 100 (2), 415-427 DOI: 10.1348/000712608X357858