Research Nugget Post #7

Article citation: The role of symmetry in attraction to average faces by Benedict C. Jones, Lisa M. DeBruine and Anthony C. Little, Perception & Psychophysics 2007, 69 (8), 1273-1277
Link to article: www.facelab.org/include/download?id=159

This paper studies the extent to which symmetry contributes to the attractiveness of average faces. Average faces are highly symmetric and increasing the symmetry of face images increases their attractiveness. The authors also demonstrated that increasing averageness of 2-D face shape independently of symmetry is sufficient to increase attractiveness. Additionally, they showed that averageness preferences are significantly weaker when the effects of symmetry are controlled for using computer graphic methods than when the effects of symmetry are not controlled for, suggesting that symmetry contributes to the attractiveness of average faces.

Nugget #1

Stimuli. Full color, front view face images of 30 young female adults (age: M 5 18.56 years, SD 5 0.72) with neutral expressions were taken with a digital camera under standardized lighting conditions and against the same background. These images were then aligned to a standard interpupillary distance. These 30 face images were then used to manufacture a female prototype face, with the average color and shape information for the sample and representative texture. The methods used to manufacture this prototype were identical in detail to those used to manufacture composites in previous studies of face preferences.

This nugget describes the experiment. The photographs of 30 young female s were taken and digitally modified to become symmetric. From these images the researchers constructed an average face. An example of face images used the experiments is shown here.

Nugget #2

Although here we have emphasized the role of averageness of 2-D shape for female facial attractiveness, it is important to note that averageness is not the only determinant of attractiveness. Indeed, while the “averageness hypothesis” proposed that average faces are optimally attractive (Langlois & Roggman, 1990), other research has demonstrated that many nonaverage facial cues can have positive effects on attractiveness (e.g., DeBruine, Jones, Unger, Little, & Feinberg, in press; Perrett et al., 1998; Perrett, May, & Yoshikawa, 1994). For example, female faces with exaggerated feminine characteristics (e.g., large eyes, full lips) are more attractive than those with more average features (Perrett et al., 1998; Perrett et al., 1994). The relative contributions of average and nonaverage facial characteristics to attractiveness remain to be investigated.

Our findings for stronger averageness preferences when both symmetry and averageness are manipulated than when averageness alone is manipulated suggest that symmetry contributes to the attractiveness of average faces. As such, our findings present converging evidence that facial symmetry is a cue to attractiveness. Additionally, as both symmetry (Cárdenas & Harris, 2006; Gombrich, 1984) and average configurations (Halberstadt & Rhodes, 2000; Winkielman et al., 2006) are also preferred in nonface stimuli, our findings raise the possibility that symmetry may also contribute to the appeal of average patterns generally.

In this nugget the authors discuss characteristics that make female faces attractive. Average and symmetric faces are considered more attractive but also faces with exaggerated feminine characteristics, such as large eyes, full lips, are considered more attractive.

This paper is relevant to my research since it investigates what type of faces are perceived to be attractive and therefore suggests that makeup applications should be made to achieve this preferred look.

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