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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Facial attractiveness

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Facial attractiveness has important social consequences. Despite a widespread belief that beauty cannot be defined, in fact, there is considerable agreement across individuals and cultures on what is found attractive. By considering that attraction and mate choice are critical components of evolutionary selection, we can better understand the importance of beauty. There are many traits that are linked to facial attractiveness in humans and each may in some way impart benefits to individuals who act on their preferences. If a trait is reliably associated with some benefit to the perceiver, then we would expect individuals in a population to find that trait attractive. Such an approach has highlighted face traits such as age, health, symmetry, and averageness, which are proposed to be associated with benefits and so associated with facial attractiveness. This view may postulate that some traits will be universally attractive; however, this does not preclude variation. Indeed, it would be surprising if there existed a template of a perfect face that was not affected by experience, environment, context, or the specific needs of an individual. Research on facial attractiveness has documented how various face traits are associated with attractiveness and various factors that impact on an individual's judgments of facial attractiveness. Overall, facial attractiveness is complex, both in the number of traits that determine attraction and in the large number of factors that can alter attraction to particular faces. A fuller understanding of facial beauty will come with an understanding of how these various factors interact with each other. WIREs Cogn Sci 2014, 5:621–634. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1316 This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Psychology > Emotion and Motivation Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics
Female students versus model/celebrity composites. The picture on the left is made up of images of models and celebrities. The picture on the right is made up of images of students. People will generally agree on which of this pair is the most attractive.
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Computer graphic manipulations of shape masculinity and femininity. From left to right: 50% feminine, original composite image, +50% masculine. These images are made using the shape difference between a composite male and a composite female image. Increasing femininity in female faces generally increase attractiveness. Studies show that some people like feminine men and some people like masculine men, while others have no particular preference.
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Caricaturing can decrease averageness. If we calculate the average shape of a number of faces, we can define an average face shape. By manipulating a particular face either toward or away from this average, we can increase or decrease averageness. From left to right: original composite image, +40% distinctive, +80% distinctive. These images have been perfectly symmetric and a composite image has been used to protect the identity of the individuals. The images should look less attractive as averageness decreases and distinctiveness increases.
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Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition
Psychology > Emotion and Motivation
Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics

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