Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes

L. Germine, R. Russell, P.M. Bronstad, G.A.M. Blokland, J.W. Smoller, H. Kwok, S.E. Anthony, K. Nakayama, Gillian Rhodes, J.B. Wilmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although certain characteristics of human faces are broadly considered more attractive (e.g., symmetry, averageness), people also routinely disagree with each other on the relative attractiveness of faces. That is, to some significant degree, beauty is in the ‘‘eye of the beholder.’’ Here, we investigate the origins of these individual differences in face preferences using a twin design, allowing us to estimate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental variation to individual face attractiveness judgments or face preferences. We first show that individual face preferences (IP) can be reliably measured and are readily dissociable from other types of attractiveness judgments (e.g., judgments of scenes, objects). Next, we show that individual face preferences result primarily from environments that are unique to each individual. This is in striking contrast to individual differences in face identity recognition, which result primarily from variations in genes [1]. We thus complete an etiological double dissociation between two core domains of social perception (judgments of identity versus attractiveness) within the same visual stimulus (the face). At the same time, we provide an example, rare in behavioral genetics, of a reliably and objectively measured behavioral characteristic where variations are shaped mostly by the environment. The large impact of experience on individual face preferences provides a novel window into the evolution and architecture of the social brain, while lending new empirical support to the long-standing claim that environments shape individual notions of what is attractive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2684–2689
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume25
Issue number20
Early online date1 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2015

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aesthetics
Face recognition
Esthetics
Brain
Genes
genes
Individuality
Behavioral Genetics
Social Perception
Genetics
Beauty
brain

Cite this

Germine, L., Russell, R., Bronstad, P. M., Blokland, G. A. M., Smoller, J. W., Kwok, H., ... Wilmer, J. B. (2015). Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes. Current Biology, 25(20), 2684–2689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.048
Germine, L. ; Russell, R. ; Bronstad, P.M. ; Blokland, G.A.M. ; Smoller, J.W. ; Kwok, H. ; Anthony, S.E. ; Nakayama, K. ; Rhodes, Gillian ; Wilmer, J.B. / Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes. In: Current Biology. 2015 ; Vol. 25, No. 20. pp. 2684–2689.
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Germine, L, Russell, R, Bronstad, PM, Blokland, GAM, Smoller, JW, Kwok, H, Anthony, SE, Nakayama, K, Rhodes, G & Wilmer, JB 2015, 'Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes' Current Biology, vol. 25, no. 20, pp. 2684–2689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.048

Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes. / Germine, L.; Russell, R.; Bronstad, P.M.; Blokland, G.A.M.; Smoller, J.W.; Kwok, H.; Anthony, S.E.; Nakayama, K.; Rhodes, Gillian; Wilmer, J.B.

In: Current Biology, Vol. 25, No. 20, 19.10.2015, p. 2684–2689.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Russell, R.

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AU - Kwok, H.

AU - Anthony, S.E.

AU - Nakayama, K.

AU - Rhodes, Gillian

AU - Wilmer, J.B.

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AB - Although certain characteristics of human faces are broadly considered more attractive (e.g., symmetry, averageness), people also routinely disagree with each other on the relative attractiveness of faces. That is, to some significant degree, beauty is in the ‘‘eye of the beholder.’’ Here, we investigate the origins of these individual differences in face preferences using a twin design, allowing us to estimate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental variation to individual face attractiveness judgments or face preferences. We first show that individual face preferences (IP) can be reliably measured and are readily dissociable from other types of attractiveness judgments (e.g., judgments of scenes, objects). Next, we show that individual face preferences result primarily from environments that are unique to each individual. This is in striking contrast to individual differences in face identity recognition, which result primarily from variations in genes [1]. We thus complete an etiological double dissociation between two core domains of social perception (judgments of identity versus attractiveness) within the same visual stimulus (the face). At the same time, we provide an example, rare in behavioral genetics, of a reliably and objectively measured behavioral characteristic where variations are shaped mostly by the environment. The large impact of experience on individual face preferences provides a novel window into the evolution and architecture of the social brain, while lending new empirical support to the long-standing claim that environments shape individual notions of what is attractive.

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JO - Current Biology

JF - Current Biology

SN - 0960-9822

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Germine L, Russell R, Bronstad PM, Blokland GAM, Smoller JW, Kwok H et al. Individual Aesthetic Preferences for Faces Are Shaped Mostly by Environments, Not Genes. Current Biology. 2015 Oct 19;25(20):2684–2689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.048