Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty

Gillian Rhodes, F. Proffitt, J.M. Grady, A. Sumich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

358 Citations (Scopus)


Evolutionary as well as cultural, pressures may contribute to our perceptions of facial attractiveness. Biologists predict that facial symmetry should be attractive, because it may signal mate quality. We tested the prediction that facial symmetry is attractive by manipulating the symmetry of individual faces and observing the effect on attractiveness, and by examining whether natural variations in symmetry (between faces) correlated with perceived attractiveness. Attractiveness increased when we increased symmetry, and decreased when we reduced symmetry, in individual faces (Experiment 1), and natural variations in symmetry correlated significantly with attractiveness (Experiments 1 and 1A). Perfectly symmetric versions, made by blending the normal and mirror images of each face, were preferred to less symmetric versions of the same faces (even when those versions were also blends) (Experiments 1 and 2). Similar results were found when subjects judged the faces on appeal as a potential life partner, suggesting that facial symmetry may affect human mate choice. We conclude that facial symmetry is attractive and discuss the possibility that this preference for symmetry may be biologically based.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-669
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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