Attractiveness of facial averageness and symmetry in non-western cultures: In search of biologically based standards of beauty

Gillian Rhodes*, Sakiko Yoshikawa, Alison Clark, Lee Kieran, Ryan McKay, Shigeru Akamatsu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    209 Citations (Scopus)


    Averageness and symmetry are attractive in Western faces and are good candidates for biologically based standards of beauty. A hallmark of such standards is that they are shared across cultures. We examined whether facial averageness and symmetry are attractive in non-Western cultures. Increasing the averageness of individual faces, by warping those faces towards an averaged composite of the same race and sex, increased the attractiveness of both Chinese (experiment 1) and Japanese (experiment 2) faces, for Chinese and Japanese participants, respectively. Decreasing averageness by moving the faces away from an average shape decreased attractiveness. We also manipulated the symmetry of Japanese faces by blending each original face with its mirror image to create perfectly symmetric versions. Japanese raters preferred the perfectly symmetric versions to the original faces (experiment 2). These findings show that preferences for facial averageness and symmetry are not restricted to Western cultures, consistent with the view that they are biologically based. Interestingly, it made little difference whether averageness was manipulated by using own-race or other-race averaged composites and there was no preference for own-race averaged composites over other-race or mixed-race composites (experiment 1). We discuss the implications of these results for understanding what makes average faces attractive. We also discuss some limitations of our studies, and consider other lines of converging evidence that may help determine whether preferences for average and symmetric faces are biologically based.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)611-625
    Number of pages15
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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