AC Little & BC Jones (2006). Attraction independent of detection suggests special mechanisms for symmetry preferences in human face perception. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 273(1605): 3093-3099. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3679

Symmetrical human faces are attractive and it has been proposed that humans have a specialised mechanism that determines symmetry preferences. Here we show that symmetry preferences are influenced by inversion whereas symmetry detection is not and that within individuals the ability to detect facial symmetry is not related to preferences for facial symmetry. Taken together these findings suggest that symmetry preferences are indeed driven by a mechanism that is independent of conscious detection. A specialised mechanism for symmetry preference may be the result of specific pressures faced by human ancestors to select high quality mates and could support a modular view of mate choice. Potentially unconscious mechanisms determining face preferences may explain why the reasons behind attraction are often difficult to verbalise

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