BC Jones, AC Little, IS Penton-Voak, BP Tiddeman, DM Burt & DI Perrett (2001). Fluctuating asymmetry and perceived health when viewing faces. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in London, UK. June 2001.

"Good genes" theory suggests that mate preferences reflect health. Theory also suggests that symmetry may act as a visual marker for health. Consistent with these observations are reports that facial symmetry is both associated with, and a cue to, attractiveness and perceived health.Here,two experiments are discussed that explore the nature of the association between facial symmetry and perceived health.Experiment one observed a significant correlation between symmetry (measured using a facial-metric technique) and health ratings when controlling for attractiveness. In contrast, the association between symmetry and attractiveness ratings was not significant when controlling for health.These results suggest that the association between symmetry and attractiveness is mediated by a link between symmetry and health. Experiment 2 compares health ratings of full-face photographs presented as both normal versions and digitally "warped" versions in which symmetry alone was increased. Within-subjects ANOVA (Factor 1: level of symmetry: normal, symmetrical. Factor 2: gender of face: opposite- gender, own-gender) showed a significant main effect for level of symmetry, suggesting that symmetry is a cue to perceived health. The significant 2x2 interaction indicated an opposite-gender bias in sensitivity to symmetry when judging health, suggesting that the perceptual analysis of symmetry may be an adaptation to the problem of discriminating between potential mates on the basis of health. Results from both experiments will be discussed with reference to both the “good genes” account of the link between symmetry and attractiveness and alternative explanations.

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