Although many studies have demonstrated that average faces tend to be attractive, few studies have examined the extent to which symmetry contributes to the attractiveness of average faces. Such studies are potentially important, however, because average faces are highly symmetric and increasing the symmetry of face images increases their attractiveness. Here we demonstrate that increasing averageness of 2D face shape independently of symmetry is sufficient to increase attractiveness, indicating that preferences for symmetry cannot solely explain the attractiveness of average faces. Additionally, we show that averageness preferences are significantly weaker when the effects of symmetry are controlled for using computer graphic methods than when the effects of symmetry are not controlled for, suggesting that symmetry contributes to the attractiveness of average faces. Importantly, this latter finding was not explained by the greater perceived similarity between versions of faces that varied in averageness, but not symmetry, than between versions of faces that varied in both averageness and symmetry.
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