We present novel methods for assessing variation in the perception of subjective cues based on a fusion of Q-methodology with computer graphics techniques. Participants first Q-sort face stimuli based upon a subjective quality; a randomization-based statistic is then calculated to test whether groups of participants differ in their perception. Computer graphics are then used to extract and illustrate the differences in the manner which participants sorted so that the differences can be quantified. As a demonstration, the technique is applied to investigate the effects of prospective relationship duration and of sexual restrictiveness on the characteristics which participants find attractive in photographs of opposite-sex faces. Results show that in a naturally varying set of faces, female participants prefer facial cues related to masculinity for short-term relationships, whereas characteristics related to positive personality attributes are preferred for long-term relationships. For short-term relationships, male participants appear to prefer more feminine, youthful faces. Preferences of individuals with less restricted sexual strategy paralleled short-term preferences in that more feminine female faces and more masculine male faces were preferred.
Burt, D., Kentridge, R., Good, J., Perrett, D., Tiddeman, B., & Boothroyd, L. (2007). Q-cgi: new techniques to assess variation in perception applied to facial attractiveness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1627), 2779-2784. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2007.1037