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Masculinity Might Not Be Most Important Trait, Study Finds

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Apparently movie star muscles aren't always what women are looking for in a mate. 

The idea that men want feminine women and women want manly men has been long-assumed, but a study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is changing the way science views that assumption.

Historically, it was assumed that evolutionary psychology, or the idea that our behaviors evolved to enhance reproductive success, was the reason behind women wanting "manly men", but it hadn't necessarily been tested in the world of science.

"It’s been replicated many times across different cultures, so people tend to assume it’s universal," Psychologist Isabel Scott at Brunel University in Uxbridge told TIME. "The assumptions people were making weren't crazy, they just weren't fully tested."

According to TIME, Scott, along with 21 colleagues, put together a new study using computer simulations to create men’s and women’s faces of various ethnicities. They created five average faces that they could then turn more masculine or less masculine. They showed the images to 962 subjects in urban and rural areas in several different countries, asking which face is the most attractive and which is the most aggressive looking.

The answers the researchers received were not the ones they had expected.

"This came as a big surprise for us," Scott told the magazine, noting that some countries didn't see the more masculine men as being the most attractive. "In South America, women preferred feminine-looking men. It was quite unexpected."

When considering evolutionary psychology, the results from countries like South America could be indicative of an earlier society, but Scott said the preferences are "clearly modern," causing them to question why they arose.

One potential reason the researchers are looking into is the idea that urban residents might be forced to make quick assessments.

"In urban settings, you encounter far more strangers, so you have a stronger motive to figure out their personalities on zero acquaintance," Scott said. 

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