Facial shape and judgements of female attractiveness

D. I. Perrett*, K. A. May, S. Yoshikawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

607 Citations (Scopus)


THE finding that photographic1-4 and digital5 composites (blends) of faces are considered to be attractive has led to the claim that attractiveness is averageness5. This would encourage stabilizing selection, favouring phenotypes with an average facial structure5. The 'averageness hypothesis' would account for the low distinctive-ness of attractive faces6 but is difficult to reconcile with the finding that some facial measurements correlate with attractiveness7,8. An average face shape is attractive but may not be optimally attractive9. Human preferences may exert directional selection pressures, as with the phenomena of optimal outbreeding and sexual selection for extreme characteristics10-14. Using composite faces, we show here that, contrary to the averageness hypothesis, the mean shape of a set of attractive faces is preferred to the mean shape of the sample from which the faces were selected. In addition, attractive composites can be made more attractive by exaggerating the shape differences from the sample mean. Japanese and Caucasian observers showed the same direction of preferences for the same facial composites, suggesting that aesthetic judgements of face shape are similar across different cultural backgrounds. Our finding that highly attractive facial configurations are not average shows that preferences could exert a directional selection pressure on the evolution of human face shape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-242
Number of pages4
Issue number6468
Publication statusPublished - 1994


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