Projects »

Emotion Expressions and Mate Preferences

In this line of research, we are examining how emotion displays may function to signal information relevant to mate value, and thus increase or decrease attractiveness, accordingly. In our first project addressing this issue, we found that while happy expressions make women extremely attractive, they have the opposite effect on men, and shame displays are (surprisingly) considered fairly attractive when shown by both genders (Tracy & Beall, 2011). In follow-up work, led by Alec Beall, we are examining the mechanisms underlying the shame-attractiveness effects; thus far, it appears that this may be a unique Western cultural phenomenon.  It seems that shame displays are not viewed to be particularly attractive in other cultures, and their attractiveness decreases among women who are ovulating, suggesting that they may not be attractive for biological reasons (see Beall & Tracy, 2015). In related research, we have used the assessment of women’s fertility (i.e., comparing women’s preferences during periods of peak fertility to those during the rest of women’s cycle) to address questions about biologically determined mate preferences; one finding to emerge is that women show a significant bias toward dressing in red or pink colored clothing when they are at peak fertility (Beall & Tracy, 2013; Tracy & Beall, 2014), consistent with evidence suggesting that men across cultures find these colors to be most sexually attractive (Elliot, Tracy, Pazda, & Beall, 2013).