LONDON Forget the square jaw, rugged complexion and tough-guy macho attitude -- what women really want is a man with full lips and feminine features, according to a British study published on Wednesday.
The findings add to previous research about masculinity and offer further insight into what people look for in others when choosing potential partners, said evolutionary psychologist Lynda Boothroyd, who led the study.
"What I've shown is that when people look at masculine faces they see them as being associated with dominance -- which is a good thing in evolution but less good as a long-term partner," she said in a telephone interview.
In the study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the researchers asked more than 400 British men and women to judge digitally altered pictures of male faces made to look more masculine or feminine.
The participants were then asked to predict personality traits such as dominance, ambition, wealth and whether a person would be faithful or make a good parent, said Boothroyd, a researcher at Durham University.
But it wasn't the macho men who came out ahead. The study showed these masculine types with larger noses, smaller eyes and thicker eyebrows were viewed as less faithful and worse parents.
Instead it was the "feminine" faces with wide eyes, finer features and thinner, more curved eyebrows that were chosen as the best potential long-term mates, Boothroyd said.
And faces that also appeared healthier -- like those with better complexion -- were also seen as more desirable in all personality traits. This helps to counter claims that masculinity is best viewed as an indicator of genetic fitness and immunity to disease, Boothroyd said.
"Here what I'm showing is healthiness is really positive and masculinity isn't," Boothroyd said. "We shouldn't be thinking about masculinity in terms of health, which is a totally different thing in women's minds, but in terms of social dominance."