Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko

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VSS Best Poster Awards 2013

Above Average? Perceptions of attractiveness in children and adults.

Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko1, Marlette Ravelo1, Daphne Maurer1; McMaster University

Adults rate averaged faces approximating the population mean as more attractive than most individual faces (e.g., Langlois & Rogmann, 1990). However, an average created from highly attractive faces is judged by adults to be more attractive than an average created from a wider selection of faces (Perrett et al. 1994, DeBruine et al. 2007). We created two ‘attractiveness dimensions’: one of 21 male faces and the other of 21 female faces, each based on the differences between a typical average and an attractive average.

We exaggerated the differences by up to 500% on either side of the typical averages. Adults (n=20) rated the attractiveness of each face, and judged the most attractive faces to be ‘above average’ (in the direction of the attractive average) on the attractiveness dimension for both male and female faces. To explore perceptions of ‘the attractiveness dimension’ developmentally, 5-year-olds (n=20) and a separate group of adults (n=20), viewed pairs of faces that varied along the attractiveness dimension and selected which face was more attractive. Regardless of pairing and gender of face, adults selected the face nearer the attractive average as more attractive. Across the pairings of male faces, five-year-olds selected faces closer to the attractive average to be more attractive to the same extent as adults. However, for female faces, the effect was weaker in children than in adults and for some pairings, not significantly different from chance.

The results indicate that the ‘attractiveness dimension‘ already influences judgments of attractiveness by age 5, but to a greater extent for male than female faces. The results suggest influences on attractiveness in addition to cognitive fluency for processing average faces emerge early in development. Surprisingly, the results suggest greater maturity on this dimension for male than female faces.

Click on image to view a PDF of the winning poster.