Do facial averageness and symmetry signal health?

Gillian Rhodes*, Leslie A. Zebrowitz, Alison Clark, S. Michael Kalick, Amy Hightower, Ryan McKay

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    214 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    We investigated whether the attractive facial traits of averageness and symmetry signal health, examining two aspects of signalling: whether these traits are perceived as healthy, and whether they provide accurate health information. In Study 1, we used morphing techniques to alter the averageness and symmetry of individual faces. Increases in both traits increased perceived health, and perceived health correlated negatively with rated distinctiveness (a converse measure of averageness) and positively with rated symmetry of the images. In Study 2, we examined whether these traits signal real, as well as perceived, health, in a sample of individuals for whom health scores, based on detailed medical records, were available. Perceived health correlated negatively with distinctiveness and asymmetry, replicating Study 1. Facial distinctiveness ratings of 17-year-olds were associated with poor childhood health in males, and poor current and adolescent health in females, although the last association was only marginally significant. Facial asymmetry of 17-year-olds was not associated with actual health. We discuss the implications of these results for a good genes account of facial preferences.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-46
    Number of pages16
    JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
    Volume22
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001

    Keywords

    • Facial averageness
    • Facial symmetry
    • Good genes theory of sexual selection
    • Health

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