Many researchers regard attractiveness as a simple physical property of faces. There are, however, several social cues from faces, such as expression and direction of attention, that impact on preferences. Few studies have investigated how different facial cues, physical and social, are integrated when forming face preferences. Here we show that effects of gaze direction and expression on preferences for attractive faces interact to determine face preferences. For example, expression differentially qualified the strength of attractiveness preferences for faces with direct and averted gaze. For judgments of faces with direct gaze, attractiveness preferences were stronger for smiling faces than faces with neutral expressions. By contrast, for judgments of faces with averted gaze, attractiveness preferences were stronger for faces with neutral expressions than smiling faces. Because expressions can differ in meaning when directed at you,rather than away from you, it is only by integrating gaze direction, facial expression and physical attractiveness that we can unambiguously identify the most attractive individuals to engage with who are most likely to reciprocate our own social interest.
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