Locating attractiveness in the face space: Faces are more attractive when closer to their group prototype

Timothy Potter; Olivier Corneille
June 2008
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review;Jun2008, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p615
Academic Journal
Face attractiveness relates positively to the mathematical averageness of a face, but how close attractive faces of varying groups are to their own and to other-group prototypes in the face space remains unclear. In two studies, we modeled the locations of attractive and unattractive Caucasian, Asian, and African faces in participants' face space using multidimensional scaling analysis. In all three sets of faces, facial attractiveness significantly increased with the absolute proximity of a face to its group prototype. In the case of Caucasian and African faces (Study 1), facial attractiveness also tended to increase with the absolute proximity of a face to the other-group prototype. However, this association was at best marginal, and it became clearly nonsignificant when distance to the own-group prototype was controlled for. Thus, the present research provides original evidence that average features of faces contribute to increasing their attractiveness, but only when these features are average to the group to which a face belongs. The present research also offers further support to face space models of people's mental representations of faces.


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