(599 kB) Conway CA, Jones BC, DeBruine LM, Little AC, Hay J, Perrett DI & Feinberg DR (2006). Integrating physical and social cues when forming face preferences: Differences among low and high anxiety individuals. Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Philadelphia, PA USA. June 2006.

Although many researchers have proposed that facial attractiveness is a simple physical property of faces, social signals may also be important for attraction. Here we examined individual differences in the integration of social and physical cues when forming face preferences. Low anxiety individuals demonstrated preferences for facial cues associated with social engagement (i.e. viewer-directed smiles) from healthy faces, but not from unhealthy faces. By contrast, high anxiety individuals preferred social engagement from both healthy and unhealthy faces. Anxiety levels were positively related to the strength of overall preferences for social engagement, indicating that anxious individuals were not simply less discriminating in their face preferences generally. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that preferences for social engagement can be modulated by health of facial appearance and that systematic variation among individuals exists in the extent to which this modulation occurs.

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