Men with “masculine” faces are more likely to be unfaithful, according to a new study.
Researchers found that women tend to suspect men with more masculine features of being love rats, and such men admit to cheating or “poaching” other men’s partners.
The experts said there may be evolutionary reasons behind the distrust of macho men, suggesting that heterosexual women’s suspicions of hunks with strong jaws, strong browridges and thinner lips, may have enabled them to spot a flaky mate.
The characteristics would also help males to spot a potential rival who might seduce their partner or leave them raising someone else’s child, the team suggested.
However, they also stressed that people should not jump to conclusions about a man’s fidelity based on his facial features alone.
For the study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers asked heterosexual white participants to judge the features of 189 white adults by showing photos of their faces.
Participants were asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 how likely they thought each person was to be unfaithful.
Those in the pictures had previously been rated for attractiveness, untrustworthiness and how masculine or feminine they appeared. They had also separately reported on whether they had cheated or “poached” a partner from someone else.
The results showed that, on average, both men and women gave higher scores of unfaithfulness to the images of men who had confessed to more cheating or poaching.
“Therefore, perceived unfaithfulness may indeed contain some kernel of trust in male faces,” the authors said.
When the team analysed the men’s faces for clues to their unfaithfulness, they found the standout feature was how masculine the face looked.
However the team stressed many other factors are at play in determining someone’s levels of fidelity.
“The actual unfaithfulness varies in our sample of faces, and 4-8% of this variation is accounted for by the average perceived unfaithfulness of those faces,” said Dr Yong Zhi Foo of the University of Western Australia, lead author of the research.
The team said they were surprised participants saw unfaithfulness so predominantly in men’s faces, and suggested it could be down to women’s use of cosmetics masking links between facial features and behaviours, or because women are less prone to cheating than men.
They said further experiments were needed involving a wider range of photographed participants – including older people who might have had more time to be unfaithful.
Dr Kristen Knowles, an evolutionary psychologist from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, said it was interesting the research so clearly linked perceptions of infidelity with actual infidelity.
She said the results may only be seen in men as women may be less likely to self-report they have cheated on a partner or poached someone else’s.
Dr Knowles further stressed men with masculine faces should not be automatically considered risky partners.
“We should be aware that these behaviours are incredibly complex, and are likely to be influenced by many factors, including social and cultural effects, personality, genetics and life experiences,” she said.