Objective: Studies showing effects of self-resemblance for both same-sex and opposite-sex faces have been interpreted as evidence for self-referential phenotype matching. However, research on sex-contingent face processing suggests that visual experience with faces of one sex has little influence on perceptions of faces of the other sex, calling into question how self-referential phenotype matching can influence perceptions of opposite-sex faces. Because children resemble their parents, here we test whether familial imprinting can influence preferences for self-resemblance in opposite-sex faces.
Methods: 116 women were paired with age- and ethnicity-matched controls. Each pair viewed the same set of faces. Participants chose the more attractive face from 10 pairs of self- versus other-resembling faces and 10 pairs of control- versus other-resembling faces. Self-resemblance preference was scored as the number of times each participant chose the self-resembling faces minus the number of times their control chose those same faces. Participants also rated how much emotional support they received from their father and mother.
Results: Women's reported emotional closeness to father was positively correlated with their self-resemblance preferences for male faces only. Women’s reported emotional closeness to mother was not related to self-resemblance preferences for either male or female faces. As in previous research, self-resemblance preferences were greater for same- than opposite-sex faces.
Conclusion: These findings implicate familial imprinting in preferences for self-resemblance in opposite-sex individuals and raise the possibility that familial imprinting and self-referential phenotype matching have context-specific effects on attitudes to self-resemblance.
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