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Psychol Sci. 2000 Jul;11(4):285-9.

The attractiveness of nonface averages: implications for an evolutionary explanation of the attractiveness of average faces.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. jhalbers@psy.otago.ac.nz


Researchers have argued that humans' attraction to average faces reflects an evolved psychological mechanism to identify high-quality mates. If this direct-selection account is correct, there is no reason to expect a similar averageness bias for stimuli that are irrelevant to reproductive fitness. The current study, however, found a strong relationship between averageness and attractiveness for dogs, wristwatches, and birds. The most parsimonious explanation is that humans have a general attraction to prototypical exemplars, and that their attraction to average faces is a reflection of this more general attraction. We tested whether a general preference for familiar stimuli can account for the attractiveness of averageness. This account was not supported for dogs or birds, but could not be ruled out for watches.

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