Recently, behavioral and psychological researchers have taken an interest in facial morphology – that is, how the shape of the human face may correlate with certain attitudes, behaviors, and personality traits.
New research – led by Steven Arnocky, of Nipissing University in Ontario, Canada – examines the role of men and women’s FWHR in sexual relationships, infidelity, and mate selection.
High FWHR predicts sex drive and infidelity
The research reports on the findings of two separate studies. In the first, Arnocky and colleagues examined 145 undergraduate students of Caucasian descent, 48 percent of whom were male.
The students were in romantic heterosexual relationships at the time of the study. They filled in questionnaires that enquired about their sexual behavior and sex drive, and they provided a photograph of their face, as well.
The researchers took measurements of the participants’ faces, and independent raters examined their FWHR by measuring the width of the face and dividing it by the height of the upper face.
Multiple regression analyses were carried out, which revealed a strong positive correlation between FWHR and sex drive in both men and women.
Then, the researchers carried out a second, larger study, in order to see whether or not they could replicate the findings in a wider sample.
So, 314 participants completed similar questionnaires and also provided a photo of their face. In addition, the team added the variables of “sociosexuality” and “intended infidelity” to the mix.
As the authors explain, “sociosexual orientation is considered a trait-based orientation toward sexuality that ranges between restricted and unrestricted.”
People with a restricted orientation tend to be uncomfortable with the thought of casual sex or sex outside of an established monogamous couple.
The researchers also added the predisposition to extra-pair mating, or “anticipated infidelity,” as a variable to see whether it correlated in any way with the facial size and shape.
The researchers looked for any potential sex differences across the results.
As in the first study, the second also found that FWHR predicted libido in both sexes. Both men and women with a higher FWHR – meaning that their faces are shorter, wider, and more square – reported a higher sex drive.
As for anticipated infidelity and sociosexuality, the study’s results revealed a correlation between high FWHR and these variables exclusively in men. In other words, men with wide, square faces may be more prone to infidelity and are more comfortable with the idea of casual sex.
“Together, these findings suggest that facial characteristics might convey important information about human sexual motivations,” says Arnocky.
Strengths, limitations, and future research
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first time that research links human FWHR to sex drive and sexual psychology.
Although the study is purely observational and cannot explain causality, the researchers point to testosterone as a factor that may be responsible for the results.
The team also notes some limitations to the study. Firstly, the population sample was quite limited. The scientists chose university students on the assumption that sexual interest is high in early adulthood, but this assumption is debatable.
Future studies should therefore aim to examine whether or not the results would be the same in adolescence or in later adulthood.
Secondly, the measure for infidelity was, the authors concede, quite restricted. Only two items in the questionnaire addressed this issue.
Finally, the authors suggest that future research should account for other factors that may influence sexual behavior, such as conservative beliefs about sex or sexual passivity.