The 'good genes' explanation of attractiveness posits that mate preferences favour healthy individuals due to direct and indirect benefits associated with the selection of a healthy mate. Consequently, attractiveness judgements are likely to reflect judgements of apparent health. One physical characteristic that may inform health judgements is fluctuating asymmetry as it may act as a visual marker for genetic quality and developmental stability. Consistent with these suggestions, a number of studies have found relationships between facial symmetry and facial attractiveness. In Study 1, the interplay between facial symmetry, attractiveness, and judgements of apparent health was explored within a partial correlation design. Findings suggest that the attractiveness-symmetry relationship is mediated by a link between judgements of apparent health and facial symmetry. In Study 2, an opposite-sex bias in sensitivity to facial symmetry was observed when judging health. Thus, perceptual analysis of symmetry may be an adaptation facilitating discrimination between potential mates on the basis of apparent health. The findings of both studies are consistent with a 'good genes' explanation of the attractiveness-symmetry relationship and problematic for the claim that symmetry is attractive as a by-product of the ease with which the visual recognition system processes symmetric stimuli.
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