Facial attractiveness biases the perception of eye contact

Nadine Kloth, C.S. Altmann, S.R. Schweinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Attractive faces are appealing: We like to look at them, and we like to be looked at by them. We presented attractive and unattractive smiling and neutral faces containing identical eye regions with different gaze directions. Participants judged whether or not a face looked directly at them. Overall, attractive faces increased participants' tendency to perceive eye contact, consistent with a self-referential positivity bias. However, attractiveness effects were modulated by facial expression and gender: For female faces, observers more likely perceived eye contact in attractive than unattractive faces, independent of expression. For male faces, attractiveness effects were limited to neutral expressions and were absent in smiling faces. A signal detection analysis elucidated a systematic pattern in which (a) smiling faces, but not highly attractive faces, reduced sensitivity in gaze perception overall, and (b) attractiveness had a more consistent impact on bias than sensitivity measures. We conclude that combined influences of attractiveness, expression, and gender determine the formation of an overall impression when deciding which individual's interest in oneself may be beneficial and should be reciprocated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1906-1918
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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