Past research has shown that both men and women are usually attracted to partners with similar facial features to their own: people find mates with faces that resemble theirs more trustworthy. A new study, however, shows evidence that after a brief but stressful experience, men's preferences for a mate changed.

The study, led by Johanna Lass-Hennemann at the University of Trier in Germany, invited 50 male participants to look at 30 pictures of erotic female nudes. These photos were computer-modified so their faces subtly resembled either the volunteer in question or another volunteer. All the men were white, clean-shaven heterosexual university students of normal weight without facial tattoos or piercings, and none of the men recognized the erotica had been computer-modified or resembled them.

Before the men looked at the nude pictures, they put their hands in either comfortable body-temperature water or painfully cold water. Tests of heart rate and blood pressure, as well as of saliva to check for the stress hormone cortisol, all confirmed the cold water stressed the men while the warm water did not.

When the volunteers looked at the erotica, relaxed men found nudes whose faces resembled them more pleasant. Stress, on the other hand, made the men reverse their preferences.

In other words, when men were under stress, instead of preferring women who resembled themselves, researchers found they choose dissimilar women.

Some researchers speculate that when times feel risky, men might not want women too similar to them, as inbreeding might lead to offspring not genetically diverse enough to deal with the varying circumstances that a stressful environment might impose on them. The researchers agree that further research in this area needs to be done.

While pairing up with someone dissimiliar has not been shown to put your health at risk, chronic stress does. Here are some tips below to help you blow of some steam.

Stress Relief for Men

  • Get regular exercise. Exercise, when performed on a regular basis, has been shown to lower the symptoms associated with anxiety and stress. If you do not have time to fit in a long workout, take a few minutes to go for a short, brisk walk. Even taking a few minutes from your day to stretch can help relieve stress.

  • Eat balanced, healthy meals. A spike or drop in blood sugar during the day can drastically change your mood and cause anxiety and stress. To avoid this, eat several small meals throughout the day (rather than feasting on a couple of huge ones), and regulate your intake of simple carbohydrates (sugar). Also, cut back on caffeine and alcohol.

  • Excel in your time management skills. Set your priorities and goals and then schedule tasks that will help you move toward achieving them. Say 'no' to things that fall outside of your priorities.

  • Meditate. Sit for a few minutes every morning before you start they day's activities — and focus on your breath. Close your eyes and slowly count the length of your inhale and the length of your exhale. This can set up a stress-free mood for the day.

  • Practice Yoga. Yoga has been shown to help enhance mood, reduce stress, and has shown potential in establishing improved immune function after stressful events. Check with your local yoga studio to find the best class for you.

  • Get adequate sleep. Sleep is one of the best stress relievers. Experts suggest adults get between seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Be consistent.

Note: Don't let stress get the best of you. Contact your doctor if you need support.


Choi, Charles Q. "Stress Changes Who Men Find Attractive." 9 Mar. 2010. Web 1 May 2010.

Less-Hennemen, Johanna, Deuter, Christian, et al. "Effects of Stress on Human Mating Preferences: Stressed Individuals Prefer Dissimilar Mates." Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 May, 2010.

Sample, Ian. "Men's Sexual Tastes Broaden When They Are Stressed." 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 1 May 2010.