Female Facial Appearance and Health

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DOI: 10.1177/147470491201000108 · Source: PubMed
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Abstract
The current study addressed whether rated femininity, attractiveness, and health in female faces are associated with numerous indices of self-reported health history (number of colds/stomach bugs/frequency of antibiotic use) in a sample of 105 females. It was predicted that all three rating variables would correlate negatively with bouts of illness (with the exception of rates of stomach infections), on the assumption that aspects of facial appearance signal mate quality. The results showed partial support for this prediction, in that there was a general trend for both facial femininity and attractiveness to correlate negatively with the reported number of colds in the preceding twelve months and with the frequency of antibiotic use in the last three years and the last twelve months. Rated facial femininity (as documented in September) was also associated with days of flu experienced in the period spanning the November-December months. However, rated health did not correlate with any of the health indices (albeit one marginal result with antibiotic use in the last twelve months). The results lend support to previous findings linking facial femininity to health and suggest that facial femininity may be linked to some aspects of disease resistance but not others.
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Gray, Alan W. and Boothroyd, Lynda G. (2012) ’Female facial appearance and health.’, Evolutionary
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Original Article
Female Facial Appearance and Health
Alan W. Gray, Department of Psychology, Durham University, South Road, DH1 3LE, UK. Email:
Alan.Gray@Durham.ac.uk (Corresponding author).
Lynda G. Boothroyd, Department of Psychology, Durham University, South Road, DH1 3LE, UK.
Abstract: The current study addressed whether rated femininity, attractiveness, and health
in female faces are associated with numerous indices of self-reported health history
(number of colds/stomach bugs/frequency of antibiotic use) in a sample of 105 females. It
was predicted that all three rating variables would correlate negatively with bouts of illness
(with the exception of rates of stomach infections), on the assumption that aspects of facial
appearance signal mate quality. The results showed partial support for this prediction, in
that there was a general trend for both facial femininity and attractiveness to correlate
negatively with the reported number of colds in the preceding twelve months and with the
frequency of antibiotic use in the last three years and the last twelve months. Rated facial
femininity (as documented in September) was also associated with days of flu experienced
in the period spanning the November-December months. However, rated health did not
correlate with any of the health indices (albeit one marginal result with antibiotic use in the
last twelve months). The results lend support to previous findings linking facial femininity
to health and suggest that facial femininity may be linked to some aspects of disease
resistance but not others.
Keywords: femininity, health, facial attractiveness, immunity, immunocompetence
¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
Introduction
The universal nature of human facial preferences (Langlois et al., 2000) suggests
the possibility that such preferences are adaptations to the problem of mate choice (Penton-
Voak and Perrett, 2000). Sexual selection will have favored preferences for facial traits
which are associated with reproductive success (Rhodes, 2006). Facial preferences may
therefore exhibit the characteristics of a system designed for the identification of high
quality mates (Thornhill and Gangestad, 1999). One way facial traits may signal mate
quality is by indicating the health of the individual displaying them. Healthy individuals
confer a reduced risk of infection as well as the possibility of heritable immunity for their
Female facial appearance and health
Evolutionary Psychology ISSN 1474-7049 Volume 10(1). 2012. -67-
suitors’ offspring (Hamilton and Zuk, 1982). Preferences for facial traits that are linked
with health are therefore expected to be present.
One facial cue used in the judgment of a woman’s attractiveness is facial
femininity. While facial proportions diverge between the sexes in particular ways, within
each sex, the extent to which an individual typifies the prototypical face structure of his or
her sex varies. Given that women have smaller jaws, lighter brow-ridges, higher
cheekbones and larger foreheads than men (Enlow and Hans 1996; Penton-Voak et al,
2001), facial femininity represents the degree to which such traits are exaggerated in a
woman’s face.
Folstad and Karter (1992) suggest that sexually dimorphic traits in males signal
immunocompetence because the sex hormones responsible for their manifestation are
immunosuppressive (e.g., testosterone) (Alexander and Stimson, 1988; Møller, Christe, and
Lux, 1999, but see Roberts, Buchanan, and Evans, 2004; Boonekamp, Ros, and Verhulst,
2008). As a consequence, male facial masculinity may honestly signal immune system
quality since only the healthiest males can afford the costs to immune functionality of high
levels of testosterone (for discussion of the immunocompetence handicap hypothesis, see
Rhodes, Chan, Zebrowitz, and Simmons, 2003), although some have recently urged caution
on this (Boothroyd et al., 2005; Boothroyd, Lawson, and Burt, 2009; Scott et al., 2010) and
suggested alternative mechanisms (Alonso-Alvarez et al., 2007).
The handicap hypothesis may not be applicable to female facial femininity, since
estrogen, which gives rise to feminine facial features in women (Law-Smith et al., 2006), is
not clearly immunosuppressive. While estrogen is positively associated with endometrial,
breast, and ovarian cancers (Service, 1998), it is also linked with the production and action
of antibodies (Alexander and Stimson, 1988). Thus estrogen may prove detrimental to cell-
mediated immunity, but beneficial to humoral immunity (Da Silva, 1999). In light of this, it
may be appropriate to consider female facial femininity as a direct signal of health, with
estrogen partially augmenting immune function. Indeed facial femininity in women has
been shown to be positively correlated with other putative cues to health, such as facial
symmetry (Little et al., 2008) and skin condition (Fink, Grammer, and Matts, 2006).
Currently only two studies have addressed a link between female facial femininity
and direct indices of health (Rhodes et al., 2003; Thornhill and Gangestad, 2006). Whereas
Rhodes et al. (2003) found that a woman’s rated facial femininity was unrelated to her
health as assessed by medical records, Thornhill and Gangestad (2006) found a significant
positive correlation between measured female facial femininity and number of self-reported
respiratory infections in the last three years. However Thornhill and Gangestad (2006)
found no association between measured female facial femininity and reported frequency of
stomach illness or antibiotic use across this time period. This suggests that facial
femininity, if linked with immune function, may be best conceived as related to particular
components of the immune system rather than a global immune response.
However, both of the aforementioned studies possess methodological flaws that
hinder the reliability of their findings. While Thornhill and Gangestad (2006) could be said
to have employed a superior methodology to Rhodes et al. (2003) with respect to the
quality of the images used, their study employed a health measure susceptible to memory
failure and bias (e.g., one assessment requesting recall of illness within the last three years).
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It is possible, for example, that the less feminine faced may have had a bias to recall more
negative events than their more feminine counterparts, perhaps mediated by self-esteem
and mood (Rhodes, 2006). Furthermore, both studies looked at how health patterns
temporally predict facial appearance and did not consider whether facial appearance can
predict later health. This distinction is important as it may be that illness affects growth
without the factors which drive growth having an impact on immune functioning. For
example, meta-analyses of experimental work in nonhuman males suggests that while
increasing testosterone may not affect immune parameters, exposure to pathogens may
down-regulate testosterone production (Boonekamp, Ros, and Verhulst, 2008).
Accordingly, the present study sought to address the relationship between female
facial femininity, attractiveness and perceived/actual health. It was assumed that for
femininity to signal health, it must be perceived as healthy and consequently be rated as
attractive. Actual health was assessed by multiple self-reports detailing the number of
colds, stomach illnesses and frequency of antibiotic use across a number of time periods,
including some more recent and therefore less susceptible to error than previous studies
employing such a measure (i.e., Thornhill and Gangestad, 2006). Based on previous
results, we would predict that the rated femininity, healthiness and attractiveness of the
faces would negatively correlate with self-reported ill-health (especially upper-respiratory
infections although not necessarily stomach bugs) in shorter-term time periods, as well as
over the preceding three years.
Materials and Methods
Participants and Photograph Collection
One hundred and five female undergraduates aged 18-20 years (mean age=18.5)
were recruited from the University’s Psychology and Biology departments in partial
exchange for course credit. Of these, 54 were from the 2009 student cohort and 51 were
from the 2010 student cohort.
All students had been photographed on entry to their degree program and gave
permission for their departmental portrait to be used in the research project. Each
participant was photographed in a portraitpose, under diffuse flash in a windowless
room. All images were black-masked to conceal clothing, hair, neck, and ears, and were
aligned to match on interpupillary distance.
Questionnaire Data
Time 1 questions. Within two weeks of commencing their courses and being
photographed, the 2009 cohorts were recruited and asked to report the number of bouts of
“colds or flu”, the number of “stomach bugs” they had suffered, and the number of
occasions on which they had taken antibiotics in both the preceding three years, and 12
months. Due to poor participant retention to Time 2 in the first cohort, the 2010 cohort
were recruited at Time 2 and asked to report the same information for the one and three
years prior to arriving at university. All participants were also asked to report whether they
had any immune system disorders (none were reported) and whether they had suffered any
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Evolutionary Psychology ISSN 1474-7049 Volume 10(1). 2012. -69-
illness at the time of being photographed (63 participants reported illness here, but this did
not relate to any facial ratings so was not examined further). The 2010 cohort were also
asked to indicate whether they were “probably wearing make-up” when the departmental
photograph was taken.
Time 2 questions. All participants completed a second questionnaire during the final
week of the autumn term in mid-December (as noted above, the 2010 cohort completed
both questionnaires at this time). They were asked to report the number of days in the
preceding eight weeks in which they had suffered a cold, the flu, a stomach bug, taken
antibiotics, or had a day off due to illness (specifically excluding precautionary measures
due to the 2009 Swine flu epidemic when the UK health authorities urged people not to go
in even if symptoms were mild).
All variables collected via health questionnaires were analyzed individually. While
data reduction techniques may have reduced Type I error rate, it is important to note that
certain variables were not expected to show significant correlations (i.e. the stomach bugs)
as they are more susceptible to various lifestyle factors such as food hygiene and period
pain and may not be reliable indicators of immune functioning, as per Thornhill and
Gangestad’s (2006) argument. Likewise, we explicitly wanted to look at the different time
periods separately. As such, data reduction was inappropriate and similarly these
correlations were not all viewed as part of the same familyfor multiple comparison
purposes (e.g., see Benjamini and Hochberg, 1995).
Ratings
Ratings of femininity were used in the present study. Such ratings are affected in
the predicted way by systematic and objective manipulation of sexually dimorphic cues in
face images (Welling et al., 2007) and have been shown to be positively correlated with
measured estrogen level (Law Smith et al., 2006).
Observers were recruited via an opportunity sample of those within Durham
University campus. Eleven females and four males with a mean age of 23.7 years (age
range 18-37) rated the faces. While observer knowledge of the experimental participants
was not considered, it is unlikely that any observers knew any of the experimental
participants personally.
Stimuli were presented individually on a laptop display (screen size = 1020 x 780,
stimulus resolution= 400 x 500 pixels). Observers were asked to rate each face on
femininity, health, mood or attractiveness, from 1 (very
masculine/unhealthy/sad/unattractive) to 7 (very feminine/healthy/happy/attractive). They
were also asked to rate each face for the degree of makeup they suspected had been applied
from 1 (none) to 3 (a lot).
Responses were made by pressing the chosen number on the keyboard and then
confirming this response with the enter key. Raters were given as long as needed to
complete each trial and subsequent trials would only be presented on completion of
previous ones. For each of the five dimensions, raters were required to judge all of the
faces. The order in which raters assessed each dimension was randomized, as was the order
in which the trials appeared within that block.
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Inter-rater agreement for each trial was acceptable to excellent for all five
dimensions (Cronbach’s alphas: attractiveness 0.77; health 0.83; femininity 0.66; make-up
0.94; mood 0.95). As rated makeup and report of wearing makeup in the images showed a
significant positive correlation (r = .489, p = <0.001), rated makeup was considered an
appropriate control for the presence of makeup in the analysis. It was not possible to use
make-up itself as a control measure as only a subset of participants provided data on it.
Results
Due to the swine flu epidemic of 2009 potentially creating cohort effects, all
reported illness was standardised within cohort before data were merged for analysis. As
ratings were acquired from different observers in 2009 versus 2010, in order to rule out any
differences in ratings (although as above Cronbach’s scores were good for both sets), all
scores were standardised within cohort.
Table 1. Intercorrelations between the facial rating measures
Rated health
Rated facial
attractiveness
Rated facial
femininity
mood
Rated health
.678
p =< .001
n = 105
.680
p =< .001
n = 102
p =< .093
Rated facial
attractiveness
.897
p = < .001
n = 102
p = .131
Rated facial
femininity
p = .217
Rated
makeup
.465
p =< .001
n = 101
.630
p =< .001
n = 101
.659
p =< .001
n = 98
p = .968
Initial correlation analyses (see Table 1) showed that rated health, femininity,
attractiveness, and makeup were significantly positively related across faces (p =< .001). In
addition, rated mood correlated positively with rated health, although this relationship was
only marginally significant (p = .093). Furthermore, health, femininity, and attractiveness
ratings remained significantly positively related when controlling for rated makeup and
mood (all r > 0.49, all ps < .001; see Table 2).
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Table 2. Intercorrelations between rated health, attractiveness and femininity with rated
makeup and mood statistically controlled
Rated health
Rated facial attractiveness
Rated facial femininity
.547
p < .001
df = 94
.818
p < .001
df = 94
Rated health
.543
p < .001
df = 97
Rated attractiveness, health, and femininity, were then entered into a bivariate
collation analysis with all health variables separately. To remove the possibility that a
participant’s degree of makeup and happiness of expression in the photographs were
confounding the relationships between rated health, attractiveness, and femininity with
reported health, rated mood and makeup were controlled for within the analysis.
Table 3. The relationship between rated facial femininity, health, and attractiveness and
reported past health, controlling for makeup and mood
Rated health
Rated facial
attractiveness
Rated facial
femininity
Number of colds or flu within
the specified time period
last three years
df=92
.020
p = .851
.007
p = .944
-.033
p = .751
last 12 months
df=94
-.133
p = .197
-.191
p = .062
-.215
p = .035
Days of stomach bug within the
specified time period
last three years
df=94
-.054
p = .600
-.028
p = .783
.030
p = .469
last 12 months
df=94
-.061
p = .557
.052
p = .613
.051
p = .620
Days of antibiotic use within the
specified time period
last three years
df=94
-.166
p = .106
-.226
p = .027
.-.272
p = .007
last 12 months
df=94
-.170
p = .097
-.172
p = .095
-.211
p = .039
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Number of colds within the last twelve months correlated significantly negatively
with rated facial femininity (r = -2.15, p < .05) and negatively, yet marginally, with rated
facial attractiveness (r = -.191, p = .062). Similarly, there were significant negative
relationships between antibiotic use, rated facial attractiveness, and femininity, such that
more attractive and feminine women reported significantly or marginally less antibiotic use
(all rs > 0.17, all ps < 0.1, see Table 3 for figures). There was also a marginal negative
correlation between rated health and reported antibiotic use in the last twelve months (r =
-.172, p =.095). There were no other significant relationships (see Table 3).
Table 4. The relationship between rated facial femininity, health, and attractiveness and
prospective reported health, controlling for makeup and mood
Rated health
Rated facial
attractiveness
Rated facial
femininity
Number of colds
within the last eight
weeks
-.067
p =.589
df = 66
-.066
p =.595
df = 66
-.060
p =.628
df = 66
Days of flu within
the last eight weeks
.115
p =.350
df = 66
-.180
p =.142
df = 66
-.265
p =.029
df = 66
Days of antibiotic
use within the
last eight weeks
.072
p =.558
df = 66
.048
p =.700
df = 66
-.025
p =.838
df = 66
Days off for illness
in the last eight
weeks
.184
p =.133
df = 66
.027
p =.826
df = 66
-.047
p =.703
df = 66
Days of stomach
bug within the last
eight weeks
-.193
p =.114
df = 66
-.122
p =.323
df = 66
-.121
p =.324
df = 66
Looking at the prospective validity of facial ratings, controlling for rated makeup
and mood, there was a significant relationship between rated facial femininity and days of
flu across the last eight weeks of the Autumn term (r = -.265, p =< .05, see table 4). That is,
women whose faces appeared more feminine in early October reported experiencing fewer
days of flu in November and December. Importantly, although the N for the prospective
data was smaller, results for colds and antibiotic use did not approach coefficient
magnitudes which would be significant with about 100 participants as in our previous
analyses, suggesting that these null correlations are not due to reduced sample size.
Discussion
The present study addressed the relationship between rated female facial femininity,
attractiveness, health, and susceptibility to infectious disease. It was predicted that all three
rating variables would correlate negatively with bouts of illness, particularly with colds and
flu suffered, although not necessarily with rates of stomach infections. The results showed
Female facial appearance and health
Evolutionary Psychology ISSN 1474-7049 Volume 10(1). 2012. -73-
partial support for this prediction, in that there was a general trend for both facial
femininity and attractiveness to correlate negatively with reported number of colds in the
preceding twelve months and with frequency of antibiotic use in the last three years and the
last twelve months. Rated facial femininity (as documented in October) was also associated
with days of flu experienced in the period spanning the November-December months. No
other significant results were obtained.
The current findings that only some illness indices are associated with facial ratings
supports the results of Thornhill and Gangestad (2006) who found no association between
female facial femininity and frequency of antibiotic use, or number of reported stomach
bugs. However they did find a negative relationship between facial femininity and
respiratory infection. These findings suggest that it may be inaccurate to conceive of a
“unitary” or “global” immune system, as doing so may obscure potential relationships
between facial rating variables and individual illness categories. The non-significant
relationship between facial femininity and health in Rhodes et al (2003) may perhaps be
due to the unitary annual health score they employed as their health measure. Femininity
may not therefore signal an augmentation of global immunity, but rather increased
resistance to some infectious diseases over others (non-human evidence suggests that
disease resistance can be pathogen specific and that immune function is more multi-faceted
than behavioral research tends to assume; see Muehlenbein and Bribiescas, 2005, for a
review).
In disagreement with previous research (Roberts et al., 2005, Kalick, Zebrowitz,
Langlois, and Johnson, 1998., Little et al., 2011) the current study found no significant
relationship between perceived health and actual health indices (albeit one marginal result
with antibiotic use in the last twelve months). This is a striking finding given that the
absence of such a relationship in the present sample cannot be accounted for by the
confounding effects of mood and makeup or by the possibility that apparent health
represents current condition and not long term disease resistance (i.e., reported illness on
day of photograph was not associated with rated health). It may be that, as above, apparent
health relates to some aspects of actual health and not others. Alternatively, wider factors
may have influenced our results. For instance, recent research has suggested that diet
(Stephen, Coetzee, and Perrett, 2011) and facial adiposity (Coetzee et al., 2011) are related
to rated health. As diet and facial adiposity where not controlled for it is possible that they
confounded the relationship between perceived and actual health. Furthermore given the
subtle coloration changes linked with a healthy appearance (i.e., increased redness and
yellowness; Stephen, Smith, Stirrat, and Perrett, 2009), the lack of standardized lighting
and screen calibration at the rating stage of the experiment may have presented an
additional confound.
It is also possible that rated and actual health failed to be associated due to a
weakness in the study’s assessment of health. While the present study employed self-report
of both remote and recent illness, the potential for memory failure, although reduced
relative to previous studies (Thornhill and Gangestad, 2006), remains. It would therefore be
interesting to see if the present results are replicated using more objective measures of
health. One avenue would be to examine the relationship between rated facial femininity,
health, and attractiveness and oxidative damage (a cause of a host of diseases; Velando,
Female facial appearance and health
Evolutionary Psychology ISSN 1474-7049 Volume 10(1). 2012. -74-
Torres, and Alonso-Alvarez, 2008) to women’s proteins, lipids, and DNA (see Gangestad,
Merriman and Thompson, 2010, for such a study using male participants).
The second aim of this study was to compare the ability of facial features to indicate
past versus predicting future health. While there is a broad pattern of facial femininity and
attractiveness indicating elements of past health (7 out of 12 predicted correlations were
significant or borderline in the correct direction), there was less evidence when considering
the two month period after the photographs were taken. Indeed, there was only one out of
12 anticipated correlations (given the expectation that stomach bugs would not be
significant) raising the very real possibility of a Type I error. It may be that 8 weeks was
insufficient time for participants’ immune systems to sufficiently differentiate; however the
first term of university was selected specifically because the exposure to novel pathogens
from a wide range of areas of the country/globe represented a time in which susceptibility
ought to be important. Thus it may be that female facial femininity is a valid index of past
health experiences (perhaps due to illness and pathogen exposure modulating sex hormones
during late adolescence when our sample would still have been developing) without being a
valid predictor of current or future health functioning. Future research, however, should
look at future health over a longer time period to ensure that the time span difference here
did not give insufficient future-health data.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that the association between facial
femininity and health may not be due to disease resistance. It is possible that feminine
women are more likely to avoid infection by moderating their exposure to pathogens rather
than possessing superior immune systems. It may be the case that the hormones associated
with facial masculinity (i.e., testosterone in men; Pound, Penton-Voak, and Surridge, 2009)
and lower estrogen in women (Law Smith et al., 2006) are precisely those which predispose
an individual to engage in behavior linked with the acquisition of disease/infection (e.g.,
increased risk taking/impulsivity). Indeed, men are more likely to engage in unhygienic
behavior than women, as studies of restroom hygiene have demonstrated (Johnson et al.,
2003; White, Kolble, Carlson, and Lipson, 2005). Further study should therefore seek to
assess the health attitudes of women and men with feminine and masculine faces before
any strong claims can be made regarding the inherent immunity associated with feminine
faced females and masculine faced males.
In summary, this study supports the finding that facial femininity and attractiveness
may indicate women’s health history, which partially supports (although without
confirmation of such relationships in future health, does not confirm) the hypothesis that
female facial structure is a direct indicator of health functioning.
Acknowledgements: With thanks to Jamie Lawson for comments. Alan Gray was
supported by a Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary.
Received 6 August 2011; Revision submitted 23 September 2011; Accepted 27
September 2011
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  • ... With regard to health, bigger breast size was found to be a risk factor for development of breast cancer (Jansen, Backstein, & Brown, 2014) and type 2 diabetes (Ray, Mohllajee, van Dam, & Michels, 2008). Although previous studies reported infectious health to be correlated with some morphological characteristics, including high facial attractiveness, symmetry, sextypicality (Gray & Boothroyd, 2012;Shackelford & Larsen, 1997;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006), and normal body mass (Rantala et al., 2013), its association with breast size has thus far not been examined. ...
    ... We found that breast size was associated with length of respiratory infections and frequency of antibiotic use but not with number of respiratory infections and any parameter describing digestive infections. Correlations with respiratory but not digestive infections have been already reported for facial appearance (Gray & Boothroyd, 2012;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006). The individual's immunocompetence is arguably better reflected in the length of illness episodes (the time the organism needs to eliminate pathogens) and frequency of antibiotic use (which is associated with severity of diseases) than the number of episodes, which depends, to a higher degree, on exposure to pathogens. ...
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    Breast size varies substantially among women and influences perception of the woman by other people with regard to her attractiveness and other characteristics that are important in social contexts, including mating. The theory of sexual selection predicts that physical criteria of partner selection should be markers of the candidate’s desirable properties, mainly biological quality. Few studies, however, have examined whether breast size really signals biological quality or its components and whether observers accurately interpret these signals. Our first study encompassed 163 young women and aimed to establish actual correlates of breast size. The aim of the second study was to determine preferences and stereotypes related to breast size: 252–265 women and men evaluated female digital figures varying in, among other characteristics, breast size. Breast size (breast circumference minus chest circumference) was negatively associated with body asymmetry and positively associated with infections of the respiratory system, but did not correlate with infections of the digestive system, openness to casual sex, and testosterone and estradiol level. Women and men perceived breasts in a similar way to each other: the bigger the breasts the higher the reproductive efficiency, lactational efficiency, sexual desire, and promiscuity attributed to the woman. Nevertheless, large breasts were not regarded more attractive than average ones, though small breasts were the least attractive. In addition, big-breasted women were perceived as less faithful and less intelligent than women with average or small breasts. We discuss our results from the perspectives of evolutionary psychology, perceptual biases, and social stereotypes.
  • ... Reports that young adult women with attractive faces are healthier are widely cited as evidence that sexual selection shaped facial attractiveness judgments and mate preferences (Grammer, Fink, Møller, & Thornhill, 2003;Little, Jones, & Debruine, 2011;Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999). However, although some studies have found that women with more attractive faces report fewer past health problems (Gray & Boothroyd, 2012;Hume & Montgomerie, 2001;Little, McPherson, Dennington, & Jones, 2011;Shackelford & Larsen, 1999), other studies have not replicated these findings (Kalick, Zebrowitz, Langlois, & Johnson, 1998;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006). ...
    ... Analyses revealed no significant relationships between facial attractiveness and any health measures. These null results are inconsistent with studies in which reported health (Gray & Boothroyd, 2012;Hume & Montgomerie, 2001;Little, McPherson, et al., 2011;Shackelford & Larsen, 1999) or objective health measures (Rantala et al., 2013) were reported as correlated with women's facial attractiveness. They are consistent with research reporting no significant correlations between facial attractiveness and either reported health (Kalick et al., 1998;Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006) or objective health measures (Foo et al., 2017;Gonzalez-Santoyo et al., 2015;Han et al., 2016). ...
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    Previous reports that women with attractive faces are healthier have been widely cited as evidence that sexual selection has shaped human mate preferences. However, evidence for correlations between women's physical health and facial attractiveness is equivocal. Moreover, positive results on this issue have generally come from studies of self-reported health in small samples. The current study took standardized face photographs of women who completed four different health questionnaires assessing susceptibility to infectious illnesses (N = 590). Of these women, 221 also provided a saliva sample that was assayed for immunoglobulin A (a marker of immune function). Analyses showed no significant correlations between rated facial attractiveness and either scores on any of the health questionnaires or salivary immunoglobulin A. Furthermore there was no compelling evidence that objective measures of sexual dimorphism of face shape, averageness of face shape, or facial coloration were correlated with any of our health measures. While other measures of health may yet reveal robust associations with facial appearance, these null results do not support the prominent and influential assumption that women's facial attractiveness is a cue of young adult women's susceptibility to infectious illnesses, at least in our study population.
  • ... While several studies show that more attractive women are healthier [44,45], others did not find this effect [46]. Furthermore, the immune function markers appear to be unrelated to women's facial beauty [27,40,46]. ...
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    It has been proposed that women’s physical attractiveness is a cue to temporal changes in fertility. If this is the case, we should observe shifts in attractiveness during pregnancy—a unique physiological state of temporal infertility. The aim of this study was to examine how women’s facial attractiveness changes during the subsequent trimesters of pregnancy and how it compares to that of nonpregnant women. Sixty-six pictures of pregnant women (22 pictures per trimester) and 22 of nonpregnant women (a control group) were used to generate four composite portraits, which were subsequently assessed for facial attractiveness by 117 heterosexual men. The results show considerable differences between facial attractiveness ratings depending on the status and progress of pregnancy. Nonpregnant women were perceived as the most attractive, and the attractiveness scores of pregnant women decreased throughout the course of pregnancy. Our findings show that facial attractiveness can be influenced by pregnancy and that gestation, even at its early stages, affects facial attractiveness. Considerable changes in women’s physiology that occur during pregnancy may be responsible for the observed effects.
  • ... [53 ], health, weight, and developmental change, e.g. [54][55][56], mate choices, e.g. [57], sexual orientation, e.g. ...
  • ... Similarly, facial femininity may be a cue to fertility, given the relationships between feminine characteristics and circulating oestrogen [35]. There is also evidence that females with more feminine faces are actually healthier [36]. However, as with both symmetry and averageness, recent evidence has questioned the honest signalling or handicap hypotheses of sexually dimorphic facial features. ...
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    The factors influencing human female facial attractiveness—symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism—have been extensively studied. However, recent studies, using improved methodologies, have called into question their evolutionary utility and links with life history. The current studies use a range of approaches to quantify how important these factors actually are in perceiving attractiveness, through the use of novel statistical analyses and by addressing methodological weaknesses in the literature. Study One examines how manipulations of symmetry, averageness, femininity, and masculinity affect attractiveness using a two-alternative forced choice task, finding that increased masculinity and also femininity decrease attractiveness, compared to unmanipulated faces. Symmetry and averageness yielded a small and large effect, respectively. Study Two utilises a naturalistic ratings paradigm, finding similar effects of averageness and masculinity as Study One but no effects of symmetry and femininity on attractiveness. Study Three applies geometric face measurements of the factors and a random forest machine learning algorithm to predict perceived attractiveness, finding that shape averageness, dimorphism, and skin texture symmetry are useful features capable of relatively accurate predictions, while shape symmetry is uninformative. However, the factors do not explain as much variance in attractiveness as the literature suggests. The implications for future research on attractiveness are discussed.
  • ... para. 2), there was plenty of evidence suggesting no relationship between attractiveness and biological fitness (e.g., Gray & Boothroyd 2012;Kalick et al. 1998;Shackelford & Larsen 1999;Weeden & Sabini 2005). Actually, the most recent review article cited by Maestripieri et al. also concluded that the supporting evidence was far from strong (Rhodes 2006). ...
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    The accumulated evidence suggests that lighter-complected blacks are more successful in our society than their darker-complected counterparts. Prior research also documents a correlation between physical attractiveness and socio-economic status attainment. The current study bridges the literatures on colorism and physical attraction and examines the complex relationship between skin color, physical attractiveness, gender, on the one hand, and three indicators of status attainment (educational attainment, hourly wage and job quality), on the other, for black young adults. Controls include family SES, family structure, parent–child relationships, and other covariates. Analysis was conducted in STATA and via structural equation modeling using MPlus software. The analysis shows that lighter-skinned young blacks attain a higher educational level, receive higher wages and enjoy better-quality jobs than their darker skinned co-ethnics. Moreover, the results show that more physically attractive young blacks, especially women, are advantaged in terms of educational attainment, wages, and job quality than their less physically attractive counterparts. These findings suggest that, among blacks, the skin color stratification coincides with that based on physical attractiveness to a large degree, with the implication being that the skin tone is a predictor of both physical attractiveness and social status for black men and women.
  • Article
    Objectives: The costs associated with reproduction (i.e., gestation, lactation, childcare) have long-term negative consequences by elevating risk of disease and reducing lifespan. We tested the hypotheses that high parity, and thus high reproductive costs bear by women, is perceived by other people when they evaluate facial appearance of health, attractiveness and age of mothers. Materials and methods: Using computer software we created average facial images based on real photographs of post-menopausal women with varying number of children; 3 parity categories were created (1-2, 4-5, and 7-9 children). Study participants (N = 571) were asked to choose the face they perceived as more attractive, younger and healthier via two-alternative forced choice questions asked in three randomized blocks. Results: Women who had given birth to fewer children were judged both by men and women as more attractive, younger and healthier than women with more children. In each category the lowest scores were received by women from highest parity category (7-9 children). Discussion: Mechanisms behind the observed variation in facial appearance are not known but higher levels of oxidative stress among women with high parity may explain their faster aging and lower attractiveness in older age. These results suggest that costs of reproduction might affect women's physical appearance.
  • Article
    All three critical points of the evolutionary explanation proposed by Maestripieri et al. may not withstand close scrutiny. Instead, there should be an alternative explanation that has nothing to do with genetic continuity, but stresses the rewarding property of attractiveness that results mainly from sociocultural value assignment and sexual experience pursuit.
  • Article
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  • Article
    We investigated aspects of self-reported health history–the number and duration of respiratory and stomach or intestinal infections and the number of uses of antibiotics over the last 3 years–in relation to measured facial masculinity, developmental instability [facial asymmetry and body fluctuating asymmetry (FA)] and facial attractiveness in a sample of 203 men and 203 women. As predicted from the hypothesis that the degree of facial masculinity is an honest signal of individual quality, men's facial masculinity correlated negatively and women's positively with respiratory disease number and duration. Stomach illness, however, was not associated significantly with facial masculinity and antibiotic use correlated significantly (negatively) only with men's facial masculinity. For both facial asymmetry and body FA, significant, positive associations were seen with the number of respiratory infections. In addition, facial asymmetry was associated positively with the number of days infected and marginally, in the same direction, with antibiotic use. Facial attractiveness showed no significant relationships with any of our health-history measures. This study provides some evidence that facial masculinity in both sexes may signal disease resistance and that developmental stability covaries positively with disease resistance. The validity of our health measures is discussed.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Currently the Immunocompetence Hypothesis dominates research into female attrac- tion to male facial masculinity. Although studies have shown links between masculinity and pos- sible indicators of health such as fluctuating asymmetry, preferences for facial masculinity do not co-vary with preferences for apparent health (BOOTHROYD et al. 2005). Here we build on that work with two studies. Study 1 addresses the concern that apparent health may not fully reflect long term immune function by investigating how masculinity preferences correlate with prefer- ences for other potential indicators of 'good genes': symmetry and averageness. Study 2 investi- gated whether masculinity preferences were dependant upon the presence of other indicators of 'good immunity' in the face, by showing observers both symmetric and asymmetric masculinity stimuli. Across three samples, women's masculinity preferences were inversely correlated with symmetry preferences, counter to prediction, and there were no consistent associations with ap- parent health or averageness. Results of Study 2 suggested that masculinity preferences may be enhanced in symmetric stimuli; however, these results appear to have been driven by a single stimulus, suggesting that more research is needed into the potential importance of initial stimulus properties when investigating masculinity preferences.
  • Article
    The human face is important for social communication and in attractiveness judgements. Previous studies indicate that several facial traits may be related to mental and physical health and there is some evidence that individuals are able to judge past health on the basis of facial appearance. The current study builds on this prior work, examining the relationship between static facial appearance and self-reported stress and health. Specifically, we examined (1) within and between individual stress (Study 1) by photographing the same participants at two times, once in a relatively stress free and once in a stressful time, and (2) between individual health (Studies 2A and 2B) by examining self-reported past number of colds as a measure of immune function. All studies demonstrated that individuals could judge the stress and physical health of others from static facial appearance alone at rates greater than chance. Such accuracy may reflect selection pressures to identify stress free and healthy social partners.
  • Article
    Recent advances in human life history theory have provided new insights into the potential selection pressures that were instrumental in the evolution of human and non-human primate males. However, gaps remain in our understanding of how primate males regulate and allocate energetic resources between survivorship and reproductive effort. Defense against parasitic infection is an important force shaping life history evolution. Proper performance of immunological responses against infection is influenced by many physiological systems, including metabolic, reproductive, and stress hormones. Because androgens influence and modulate immune, reproduc-tive, and somatic metabolic functions, assessing changes in testosterone and immune factors during infection may yield insight into male physiological ecology. In this review, we examine male life history trade-offs between immune and reproductive endocrine functions as well as provide a comprehensive review of testosterone–immunocompetence relationships. Emphasis is placed on testosterone because it is a primary hormone shown to be crucial to energy-allocation processes in vertebrates. Non-primate species have been used more extensively in this research than humans or non-human primates, and therefore this extensive literature is organized and reviewed in order to better understand potential parallel relationships in primates, especially humans. Furthermore, we attempt to reconcile the many inconsistent results obtained from field studies on immune–endo-crine interactions as well as detail various methodologies that may be used to forward this research in evolutionary anthropology. Am.
  • Data
    Recent advances in human life history theory have provided new insights into the potential selection pressures that were instrumental in the evolution of human and non-human primate males. However, gaps remain in our understanding of how primate males regulate and allocate energetic resources between survivorship and reproductive effort. Defense against parasitic infection is an important force shaping life history evolution. Proper performance of immunological responses against infection is influenced by many physiological systems, including metabolic, reproductive, and stress hormones. Because androgens influence and modulate immune, reproduc-tive, and somatic metabolic functions, assessing changes in testosterone and immune factors during infection may yield insight into male physiological ecology. In this review, we examine male life history trade-offs between immune and reproductive endocrine functions as well as provide a comprehensive review of testosterone–immunocompetence relationships. Emphasis is placed on testosterone because it is a primary hormone shown to be crucial to energy-allocation processes in vertebrates. Non-primate species have been used more extensively in this research than humans or non-human primates, and therefore this extensive literature is organized and reviewed in order to better understand potential parallel relationships in primates, especially humans. Furthermore, we attempt to reconcile the many inconsistent results obtained from field studies on immune–endo-crine interactions as well as detail various methodologies that may be used to forward this research in evolutionary anthropology. Am.
  • Article
    Inspired by the evolutionary conjecture that sexually selected traits function as indicators of pathogen resistance in animals and humans, we examined the notion that human facial attractiveness provides evidence of health. Using photos of 164 males and 169 females in late adolescence and health data on these individuals in adolescence, middle adulthood, and later adulthood, we found that adolescent facial attractiveness was unrelated to adolescent health for either males or females, and was not predictive of health at the later times. We also asked raters to guess the health of each stimulus person from his or her photo. Relatively attractive stimulus persons were mistakenly rated as healthier than their peers. The correlation between perceived health and medically assessed health increased when attractiveness was statistically controlled, which implies that attractiveness suppressed the accurate recognition of health. These findings may have important implications for evolutionary models.
  • Article
    The links between appearance and health influence human social interactions and are medically important, yet the facial cues influencing health judgments are unclear, and few studies describe connections to actual health. Increased facial skin yellowness (CIELab b*) and lightness (L*) appear healthy in Caucasian faces, but it is unclear why. Skin yellowness is primarily affected by melanin and carotenoid pigments. Melanin (dark and yellow) enhances photoprotection and may be involved in immune defense, but may contribute to vitamin D deficiency. Carotenoids (yellow) signal health in bird and fish species, and are associated with improved immune defense, photoprotection and reproductive health in humans. We present three studies investigating the contribution of carotenoid and melanin to skin color and the healthy appearance of human faces. Study 1 demonstrates similar perceptual preferences for increased skin L* and b* in UK-based Caucasian and black South African populations. Study 2 shows that individuals with higher dietary intakes of carotenoids and fruit and vegetables have increased skin b* values and show skin reflectance spectra consistent with enhanced carotenoid absorption. Study 3 shows that, to maximize apparent facial health, participants choose to increase empirically derived skin carotenoid coloration more than melanin coloration in the skin portions of color-calibrated face photographs. Together our studies link skin carotenoid coloration to both perceived health and healthy diet, establishing carotenoid coloration as a valid cue to human health which is perceptible in a way that is relevant to mate choice, as it is in bird and fish species.
  • Article
    Evolutionary psychologists have proposed that preferences for facial characteristics, such as symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism, may reflect adaptations for mate choice because they signal aspects of mate quality. Here, we show that facial skin color distribution significantly influences the perception of age and attractiveness of female faces, independent of facial form and skin surface topography. A set of three-dimensional shape-standardized stimulus faces-varying only in terms of skin color distribution due to variation in biological age and cumulative photodamage-was rated by a panel of naive judges for a variety of perceptual endpoints relating to age, health, and beauty. Shape- and topography-standardized stimulus faces with the homogeneous skin color distribution of young people were perceived as younger and received significantly higher ratings for attractiveness and health than analogous stimuli with the relatively inhomogeneous skin color distribution of more elderly people. Thus, skin color distribution, independent of facial form and skin surface topography, seems to have a major influence on the perception of female facial age and judgments of attractiveness and health as they may signal aspects of underlying physiological condition of an individual relevant for mate choice. We suggest that studies on human physical attractiveness and its perception need to consider the influence of visible skin condition driven by color distribution and differentiate between such effects and beauty-related traits due to facial shape and skin topography.