Artist Mike Mike used morphing technology to create composites of the faces of people in various cities around the world. He published the pictures in a book,“the Face of Tomorrow”. The images are captivating- and the book can be paged through if you follow the link above. I recommend taking the time to look at the images – average faces will never look quite the same again.
I’m going to miss a couple of postings due to a computer meltdown that is coinciding with the start of a new academic year.
TTypically, the research on symmetry and attractiveness does not take the specific location of the asymmetry or asymmetries into account. Springer, et.al. (2007) compared attractiveness ratings of photos of 2 men and 2 women (like the one to the right) in the following conditions:
- nevus free (birthmark, beauty mark, or blemish)
- a digitally added single nevus at the numbered locations, and
- two symmetric nevi at positions 5 & 6
The results indicate:
- the blemish-free image was rated the most attractive
- the further a single blemish was from the face’s midline, the less unattractive it was, and
- symmetric blemishes were the least attractive
Additionally (and separately), canthal tilt was varied in two ways: toward and away from midline and unilaterally or bilaterally.
As the image shows, center of motion medial (CMM) produces a more lateral asymmetry while center of motion lateral (CML) produces a more medial asymmetry. The results indicate:
- medial asymmetries were rated as less attractive than lateral asymmetries
- minor asymmetric tilts were not unattractive
- significant tilts were viewed more attractively when symmetric
- slight upward tilts of the lateral canthus are attractive, slight downward tilts of the medial canthus are unattractive (perhaps associated with aging?)
The authors conclude that in general, attractiveness is reduced:
- with increasing asymmetries, and
- the closer the asymmetries are to midline
- nicely designed tests of the role of asymmetry’s proximity to midline
- Raters were stratified, but seem to have been obtained via opportunity/convenience sampling
This study, pending replication, suggests that asymmetries’ proximity to midline is a variable that can significantly influence attractiveness ratings.
Springer, I., Wannicke, B., Warnke, P., Zernial, O., Wiltfang, J., Russo, P., Terheyden, H., Reinhardt, A., & Wolfart, S. (2007). Facial Attractiveness Annals of Plastic Surgery, 59 (2), 156-162 DOI: 10.1097/01.sap.0000252041.66540.ec
Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, Markus Jokela (2009) has found an association between the rated attractiveness of yearbook photos and reproductive success in a contemporary industrial/technological population. This study is significant because it offers real data suggesting that attractiveness in humans can pay-off in tangible evolutionary terms in the modern world. The estimated pay-off, in this case, was at about half the rate of the average selection gradient reported in a review of non-human natural selection. Assuming no change in correlation rates and no correlations with other reproductively relevant traits (both are questionable assumptions), modern humans living in industrial/technological societies should be getting more beautiful at the rate of about 0.02 standard deviations per generation. For comparison, Dr. Jakela points out in his blog that an equivalent change in height would be about 0.08 inches (about .20 cm) per generation.
- The least attractive quartile of men (bottom 25%) had 13% fewer children (at age 53-56) than did all other men, though the lowest p level was .07. This suggests that for modern men, not being unattractive may be more important than being attractive.
- Attractive women (third quartile or those in the 50th-75th percentiles) had 16% more children on average than did the least attractive 50% of women while the most attractive women (75th to 99th percentiles) had 6% more children than did the least attractive 50%. These relationships were statistically significant. This suggests that the most attractive (beautiful) women may use different reproductive strategies than attractive women or that beautiful women have a preference for smaller family size or….
- Large sample
- Long-term, longitudinal data
- WLS data include mostly white subjects (from one US state only)
- Attractiveness ratings of yearbook photos taken in 1957 were made by students in 2004
- No inter-rater reliability data reported
- Attractiveness ratings were primarily of headshots like those above
- Attractiveness was rated at only one point in the life-span
- There are no non-high-school graduate subjects
Photo courtesy of Jay Hernandez: Wikipedia Commons
Jokela, M. (2009). Physical attractiveness and reproductive success in humans: evidence from the late 20th century United States☆ Evolution and Human Behavior, 30 (5), 342-350 DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.03.006