It is generally thought that experience with faces recalibrates preferences to match the population average for recently encountered exemplars. Here, however, we demonstrate that viewing faces biases recalibration of preferences towards characteristics that are common to the more attractive faces that were encountered, rather than characteristics of the unbiased population average. Furthermore, this bias in recalibration of preferences was abolished when participants' attention was directed away from the attractive faces, suggesting it is a consequence of the tendency to look longer and more often at attractive faces than at relatively unattractive faces. These findings suggest a perceptual mechanism that may reinforce directional selection for nonaverage attractive facial characteristics and their correlates, rather than driving stabilizing selection for average traits.
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