Although some researchers have proposed that attractiveness is simply a function of averageness, others have found that caricaturing highly attractive faces (increasing the distance between average and "attractive" shape) makes them mathematically less average but more attractive. Consistent with the first theory, prior research using visual adaptation paradigms has found that perceptions of both normality and attractiveness of certain face types (e.g. faces with altered eyespacing) increase with exposure. Here we use a visual adaptation paradigm to test how exposure to highly attractive and unattractive faces affects perceptions of normality and attractiveness. Highly attractive faces were rated as both more attractive and less normal after adaptation to unattractive faces, but less attractive and more normal after exposure to attractive faces, opposing the theory that averageness and attractiveness are equivalent and supporting the proposal that attractiveness continues to increase along a vector as it departs from the prototypical face towards attractive.
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