Changes in women’s facial skin color over the ovulatory cycle are not detectable by the human visual system

Burriss, Robert, Troscianko, Jolyon, Lovell, P. George, Fulford, Anthony, Stevens, Martin, Quigley, Rachael, Payne, Jenny, Saxton, Tamsin and Rowland, Hannah (2015) Changes in women’s facial skin color over the ovulatory cycle are not detectable by the human visual system. PLoS ONE, 10 (7). e0130093. ISSN 1932-6203

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130093

Abstract

Human ovulation is not advertised, as it is in several primate species, by conspicuous sexual swellings. However, there is increasing evidence that the attractiveness of women’s body odor, voice, and facial appearance peak during the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycle. Cycle effects on facial attractiveness may be underpinned by changes in facial skin color, but it is not clear if skin color varies cyclically in humans or if any changes are detectable. To test these questions we photographed women daily for at least one cycle. Changes in facial skin redness and luminance were then quantified by mapping the digital images to human long, medium, and shortwave visual receptors. We find cyclic variation in skin redness, but not luminance. Redness decreases rapidly after menstrual onset, increases in the days before ovulation, and remains high through the luteal phase. However, we also show that this variation is unlikely to be detectable by the human visual system. We conclude that changes in skin color are not responsible for the effects of the ovulatory cycle on women’s attractiveness.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: ovulation, human visual receptors
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Tamsin Saxton
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2015 15:04
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2016 16:31
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/23428

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