The Attractiveness of Average Faces is not a Generalized Mere Exposure Effect

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Averaged composite faces, created by blending sets of faces, are surprisingly attractive. Here we consider whether a generalized mere exposure effect contributes to their appeal. Specifically, we tested whether positive affect associated with previously seen faces (the mere exposure effect) generalizes to the averaged composite of those faces. To maximize the likelihood of generalization, two six-face sets were created for each of four distinct facial types (male and female, Japanese and Caucasian), each with high within-set similarity and low between-set similarity. Caucasian adults viewed one set of each face type and then rated the attractiveness of individual faces, two-face composites, and six-face composites. Seen faces were rated as significantly more attractive than unseen faces, but this exposure effect did not generalize to averaged composites of the seen faces. We conclude that the appeal of average faces is not a generalized mere exposure effect. We also discuss "liking" versus "attractiveness" as social cues and their relationship to different manipulations of affect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-217
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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