AC Little, BC Jones & LM DeBruine (2006). Unconscious Preferences for Familiar Faces in Females While Males Prefer More Novel Female Faces: Evidence for the Coolidge effect in humans. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Philadelphia, PA USA. June 2006.

Preferences for “average” faces have been explained by suggesting that judges like familiar stimuli and that average faces resemble an internal template of a face, and hence are more familiar. In this talk I discuss recent evidence for this notion showing that judges prefer familiar celebrity face shapes over mathematically opposite unfamiliar face shapes, even though none of the faces are recognisable as the individuals they represent. As both types of face presented were equally distant from a mathematical face norm, this suggests faces we have experience with guide our preferences. Interestingly, while familiarity was preferred by males and females in male faces, when judging female faces, male judges preferred less familiar face shapes than did women. We suggest this is evidence for the Coolidge effect in humans, whereby males have been selected to have a greater preference for novelty in their sexual partners than have women.

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