(609 kB) Welling LLM, Conway CA, DeBruine LM & Jones BC (2006). Perceived vulnerability to disease is positively related to the strength of preferences for apparent health in faces. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Philadelphia, PA USA. June 2006.

People who are particularly vulnerable to disease may reduce their likelihood of contracting illnesses during social interactions by having particularly strong aversions to individuals who appear ill. Consistent with this proposal, here we show that individuals who perceive themselves to be particularly vulnerable to disease have stronger preferences for apparent health in faces than individuals who perceive themselves to be relatively less vulnerable to disease. This relationship was independent of possible effects of general disgust sensitivity. Furthermore, perceived vulnerability to disease was not related to preferences for other facial cues that are attractive but do not necessarily signal an individual's current health (i.e. perceiver-directed smiles). Collectively, these findings reveal a relatively domain-specific association between perceived vulnerability to disease and the strength of aversions to facial cues associated with illness and are further evidence that variation in attractiveness judgments are not arbitrary, but reflect potentially adaptive individual differences in face preferences.

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