Face and voice attractiveness judgments change during adolescence
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Attractiveness judgments are thought to underpin adaptive mate choice decisions. We investigated how these judgments change during adolescence when mate choice is becoming relevant. Adolescents aged 11–15 evaluated faces and voices manipulated along dimensions that affect adults' judgments of attractiveness and that are thought to cue mate value. Facial stimuli consisted of pairs of faces that were more or less average, more or less feminine, or more or less symmetric. The adolescents selected the more average, symmetric, and feminine faces as more attractive more often than chance, but judgments of some facial traits differed significantly with rater age and sex, indicating a role of development in judgments of facial cues. Vocal stimuli consisted of pairs of voices manipulated to raise or lower perceived pitch. The older but not younger girls selected the lower-pitched male voices as more attractive at rates above chance, while the younger but not older boys selected the higher-pitched female voices as more attractive. Controlling for rater age, increased pubertal development was associated with increased selection of lower-pitched boys' voices by girls and decreased selection of feminized male faces by boys. Our results are the first to demonstrate that adolescents show somewhat similar attractiveness judgments to adults in age-matched stimuli and that age, sex, and pubertal development have measurable effects on adolescents' attractiveness judgments. They suggest that attractiveness judgments in humans, at least for some traits, are facultatively calibrated to the individual's life stage, only reaching adult values upon sexual maturity when mate choice decisions become relevant.