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Facial masculinity is only weakly correlated with handgrip strength in young adult women

By Amanda C Hahn, Iris J Holzleitner, Anthony J Lee, Michal Kandrik, Kieran J O’Shea, Lisa M DeBruine, Benedict C Jones

Posted 24 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/425017 (published DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.23203)

Objectives: Ancestrally, strength is likely to have played a critical role in determining the ability to obtain and retain resources and the allocation of social status among humans. Responses to facial cues of strength are therefore thought to play an important role in human social interaction. Although many researchers have proposed that sexually dimorphic facial morphology is reliably correlated with physical strength, evidence for this hypothesis is somewhat mixed. Moreover, to date, only one study has investigated the putative relationship between facial masculinity and physical strength in women. Consequently, we tested for correlations between handgrip strength and objective measures of face-shape masculinity. Methods: 531 women took part in the study. We measured each participant's handgrip strength (dominant hand). Sexual dimorphism of face shape was objectively measured from each face photograph using two methods: discriminant analysis and vector analysis. These methods use shape components derived from principal component analyses of facial landmarks to measure the probability of the face being classified as male (discriminant analysis method) or to locate the face on a female-male continuum (vector analysis method). Results: Our analyses revealed that handgrip strength is, at best, only weakly correlated with facial masculinity in women. There was a weak significant association between handgrip strength and one measure of women's facial masculinity. The relationship between handgrip strength and our other measure of women's facial masculinity was not significant. Discussion: Together, these results do not support the hypothesis that face-shape masculinity is an important cue of physical strength, at least in women.

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