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A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/40/14388.full) has challenged our idea that women naturally gravitate towards masculine men, and men towards feminine women.

As biology applicants will be familiar with, women with more feminine faces tend to have higher estrogen levels with the evolutionary argument being that this is more attractive to men seeking to have offspring as a biological imperative.

In men, the argument is along the same vein in that men with masculine faces are associated with strong immune systems; a good trait in a mate and a good characteristic to pass on to future offspring.

These ideas of evolutionary psychology express that our behaviours as men and women gravitate towards reproductive success – to firstly produce offspring, and to produce viable, strong offspring at that.

This new study, however, challenges these assumptions by stating that the attractiveness of faces along the masculine or feminine spectrum varied greatly with geography, finding that the traditional view of masculine men and feminine women as attractive held truest in urban dwelling subjects, but varied drastically in rural dwellers.

In South America, for example, feminine-looking men were found vastly more attractive than masculine-men, who were seen as too aggressive looking.

These studies are an important standpoint of psychology and human sciences, where we can challenged long-held hypotheses by devising tests to challenge their validity. In this case, the experiment used composites of male and female faces to exaggerate certain features and soften others. Geography applicants will also be interested to see the correlation between urban and masculine looking faces, with one suggestion being that in urban settings, you see far more faces and so you have a heightened sense of motivation to determine personalities and the likelihood of being a good mate on appearance alone.

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