Predictors of facial attractiveness and health in humans

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Facial attractiveness has been suggested to provide signals of biological quality, particularly health, in humans. The attractive traits that have been implicated as signals of biological quality include sexual dimorphism, symmetry, averageness, adiposity, and carotenoid-based skin colour. In this study, we first provide a comprehensive examination of the traits that predict attractiveness. In men, attractiveness was predicted positively by masculinity, symmetry, averageness, and negatively by adiposity. In women, attractiveness was predicted positively by femininity and negatively by adiposity. Skin colour did not predict attractiveness in either sex, suggesting that, despite recent interest in the literature, colour may play limited role in determining attractiveness. Male perceived health was predicted positively by averageness, symmetry, and skin yellowness, and negatively by adiposity. Female perceived health was predicted by femininity. We then examined whether appearance predicted actual health using measures that have been theoretically linked to sexual selection, including immune function, oxidative stress, and semen quality. In women, there was little evidence that female appearance predicted health. In men, we found support for the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis that male masculinity signalled semen quality. However, we also found a negative relationship between averageness and semen quality. Overall, these results indicate weak links between attractive facial traits and health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39731
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2017


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