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Single women had their brains scanned as they looked at photos of men. The pictures had been subtlely altered to make the men’s faces more or less masculine.
The more masculine faces won out in terms of attraction — but the areas of the brain that were activated indicated these faces were also ones the women found most threatening.
The group found a few interesting results. First, compared with the feminized faces, masculinized faces led to more activity in five specific brain areas: the left superior temporal gyrus, bilateral precentral gyrus, right posterior cingulate cortex, bilateral inferior parietal lobule, and bilateral anterior cingulate cortex. These areas have been implicated in face processing as well as the assessment of risk, suggesting that, consciously or not, masculinized faces are perceived as not only more attractive but also more dangerous. The effect was quite robust considering just how slightly the faces had been morphed.
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