Evolutionary psychology has come one step closer to understanding the essence of cattiness. Researchers at Aberdeen University in the UK have published a study in the journal Biology Letters that suggests:
With eyes on the competition, women of childbearing age rate other attractive women consistently lower than women who have entered menopause.
The New Scientist has an article out today with more details. The study is one of many recent attempts to use face-rating software to determine attraction/ preference among various test groups. You can try a basic version of this software here.
The problem is that establishing preference, as these studies often convincingly do, is not the same as establishing an intentional link. In this case, women between the ages of 40 and 64 were asked to pick between faces of masculinized and feminized (that is, digitally enhanced) faces of 40 men and women.
No matter their menopausal status, women favored masculine-looking men. Yet when rating other women, women still able to have children rated feminine faces as slightly less attractive than menopausal women.
The implied intentional link is a sense of competition between fertile women taking the test and the hyper-feminized, non-menoposal female faces they were rating. But again, does establishing less attraction necessarily imply a competitive motivation?
Maybe. No doubt many future face-morphing studies will follow up on the same question. In the meantime, we can occupy ourselves with the more straightforward study of the sex lives of animals (rated X – you’ve been warned).