Studies demonstrating that facial cues of adiposity influence health and attractiveness judgments typically use image transformations defined by prototypes of individuals with either high or low body mass indices. Such transformations alter facial adiposity, but will also alter any additional characteristics that distinguish high-BMI from low-BMI individuals. Addressing this issue, we manipulated cues of adiposity using transformations defined by prototypes of the same individuals when their weight was relatively high and relatively low. These transformations were applied to face images of women at the mid-point of the normal BMI range. Increased- and decreased-adiposity versions of the faces simulated an increase in BMI to the upper limit of this normal range or a decrease in BMI to the lower limit of this normal range, respectively. Analyses of health and attractiveness judgments of these images showed that the decreased-adiposity versions were judged healthier and more attractive than the increased-adiposity versions. Moreover, this effect was greater for attractiveness than health judgments. This study presents new evidence that cues of adiposity influence health and attractiveness judgments of faces and demonstrates a new method that may reduce confounds in face stimuli used to study the effects of cues of adiposity on mating-related perceptions.
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