It's not just average faces that are attractive: Computer-manipulated averageness makes birds, fish and automobiles attractive

J. Halberstadt, Gillian Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

112 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Average faces are attractive. We sought to distinguish whether this preference is an adaptation for finding high-quality mates (the direct selection account) or whether it reflects more general information-processing mechanisms. In three experiments, we examined the attractiveness of birds, fish, and automobiles whose averageness had been manipulated using digital image manipulation techniques common in research on facial attractiveness. Both manipulated averageness and rated averageness were strongly associated with attractiveness in all three stimulus categories. In addition, for birds and fish, but not for automobiles, the correlation between subjective averageness and attractiveness remained significant when the effect of subjective familiarity was partialled out. The results suggest that at least two mechanisms contribute to the attractiveness of average exemplars. One is a general preference for familiar stimuli, which contributes to the appeal of averageness in all three categories. The other is a preference for averageness per se, which was found for birds and fish, but not for automobiles, and may reflect a preference for features signaling genetic quality in living organisms, including conspecifics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-156
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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