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Perception. 2004;33(5):569-76.

When facial attractiveness is only skin deep.

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School of Psychology, St Mary's College, University of St Andrews, South Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JP, Scotland, UK.


Whilst the relationship between aspects of facial shape and attractiveness has been extensively studied, few studies have investigated which characteristics of the surface of faces positively influence attractiveness judgments. As many researchers have proposed a link between attractiveness and traits that appear healthy, apparent health of facial skin might be a property of the surface of faces that positively influences attractiveness judgments. In experiment 1 we tested for a positive correlation between ratings of the apparent health of small skin patches (extracted from the left and right cheeks of digital face images) and ratings of the attractiveness of male faces. By using computer-graphics faces, in experiment 2 we aimed to establish if apparent health of skin influences male facial attractiveness independently of shape information. Results suggest that apparent health of facial skin is correlated both with ratings of male facial attractiveness (experiment 1) and with being a visual cue for judgments of the attractiveness of male faces (experiment 2). These findings underline the importance of controlling for the influence of visible skin condition in studies of facial attractiveness and are consistent with the proposal that attractive physical traits are those that positively influence others' perceptions of an individual's health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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