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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Dec 22;274(1629):3113-7.

Preferences for symmetry in human faces in two cultures: data from the UK and the Hadza, an isolated group of hunter-gatherers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK.


Many studies show agreement within and between cultures for general judgements of facial attractiveness. Few studies, however, have examined the attractiveness of specific traits and few have examined preferences in hunter-gatherers. The current study examined preferences for symmetry in both the UK and the Hadza, a hunter-gatherer society of Tanzania. We found that symmetry was more attractive than asymmetry across both the cultures and was more strongly preferred by the Hadza than in the UK. The different ecological conditions may play a role in generating this difference. Such variation in preference may be adaptive if it reflects adaptation to local conditions. Symmetry is thought to indicate genetic quality, which may be more important among the Hadza with much higher mortality rates from birth onwards. Hadza men who were more often named as good hunters placed a greater value on symmetry in female faces. These results suggest that high quality Hadza men are more discriminating in their choice of faces. Hadza women had increased preferences for symmetry in men's faces when they were pregnant or nursing, perhaps due to their increased discrimination and sensitivity to foods and disease harmful to a foetus or nursing infant. These results imply that symmetry is an evolutionarily relevant trait and that variation in symmetry preference appears strategic both between cultures and within individuals of a single culture.

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