Beauty is in the ear of the listener: Using eye-tracking to investigate the role of native vs. non-native verbal skills as credible fitness indicators in sexual mate choice

Project: Research

  • Aarhus University
See relations at Aarhus University


Sexual reproduction depends on the ability to identify and attract a mate of adequate fitness quality. Thus, initial attraction builds on an assessment of bodily traits that constitute credible indicators of mate quality. Interestingly, verbal proficiency has also been shown to function as a credible indicator of quality and to increase perceived attractiveness. This is because cognitive skills that take effort to acquire are hard to fake, thus becoming credible signals of quality in people that can afford them. But what about individuals with non-native foreign language skills? On the one side, they are generally perceived to be less credible and intelligent than people with native skills in the same language; on the other, foreign language skills correlate with high mother tongue proficiency and generally high cognitive skills. This raises the question of the credibility of non-native verbal skills as fitness indicators: Does non-native fluency increase (because it is a costly skill to acquire) or decrease (because it is associated with lower credibility) the perceived attractiveness of speakers of foreign languages? We will investigate this question experimentally using pictures of faces associated with different speech stimuli in an eye-tracking procedure.

Key findings

The project is still in the data collection phase
Short titleBeauty is in the ear of the listener
Effective start/end date01/01/201931/12/2019

ID: 156908410