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Looking for love or lust? Your face gives it away

A new study by U.K. researchers found that you can tell just by looking at someone’s face whether they’re interested in casual sex or long-term commitment. And, not surprisingly, women tend to be more attracted to the guys who look like true boyfriend material, while men are drawn to faces that seem to say “one-night stand,” found the study, published Tuesday in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

Researchers created composite images of college students who identified themselves as either looking for a fling or true love and asked 700 participants to separate the hussies from the prudes. And most of the time, their instincts were accurate – 72 percent of the participants were right more than half the time, although they couldn’t exactly explain their guesses.

“They had the gut instinct, but they didn’t understand it,” says Lynda Boothroyd, a psychology professor at Durham University in Durham, England, and lead author of the study.

For guys, a face like Clive Owen’s — a square jaw, prominent eyebrows and nose and smaller eyes — tends to belong to the sluttier of the sex. Men with softer features were more likely to be looking for a long-term relationship. (In other words, Matthew Fox really would make a good boyfriend.)

As for women, it’s the hotties who are more likely to have flings. Both men and women who participated in the study thought that the more attractive women would be interested in something short-term, and they were right — although Boothroyd and her colleagues couldn’t pinpoint a specific facial detail about the images, just that they  were slightly more classically attractive.

Boothroyd’s theory sounds a little like common sense: If you’re better-looking, you simply have more opportunities to get some action, especially when you’re 18, she says.

If you’re more attractive, people might expect you to have more partners. And more often than not, we fulfill those expectations people have of us.

“The way we think of ourselves is a reflection in part of how others see us,” Keating says. “So when we go out in the world, we’re looking at ourselves through a reflection of other people’s views.”

Because of the effect those expectations have on our behavior, our first impressions about people turn out to be right, says Keating.

“Physical appearance cues tell us more about people than we’re even consciously aware of,” Keating says. “So in fact, we do judge a book by its cover. And the funny thing is, it often works for us.”