JC Main, LM DeBruine, AC Little & BC Jones (2010). Interactions among the effects of head orientation, emotional expression and physical attractiveness on face preferences. Perception, 39(1): 62-71. doi: 10.1068/p6503

Previous studies have shown that preferences for direct versus averted gaze are modulated by emotional expressions and physical attractiveness. For example, preferences for direct gaze are stronger when judging happy or physically attractive faces than when judging disgusted or physically unattractive faces. Here we show that preferences for front versus three-quarter views of faces, in which gaze direction was always congruent with head orientation, are also modulated by emotional expressions and physical attractiveness; participants demonstrated preferences for front views of faces over three-quarter views of faces when judging the attractiveness of happy, physically attractive individuals, but not when judging the attractiveness of relatively unattractive individuals or those with disgusted expressions. Moreover, further analyses indicated that these interactions did not simply reflect differential perceptions of the intensity of the emotional expressions shown in each condition. Collectively, these findings present novel evidence that the effect of the direction of the attention of others on attractiveness judgments is modulated by cues to the physical attractiveness and emotional state of the depicted individual, potentially reflecting psychological adaptations for efficient allocation of social effort. These data also present the first behavioural evidence that the effect of the direction of the attention of others on attractiveness judgments reflects viewer-referenced, rather than face-referenced, coding and/or processing of gaze direction.

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