Bernhard Fink, Nick Neave, John T Manning, and Karl Grammer (2006)

Facial symmetry and judgements of attractiveness, health and personality

Personality and Individual Differences, 41(3):491-499.

Bilateral symmetry of physical traits is thought to reflect an individual’s phenotypic quality, especially their ability to resist environmental perturbations during development. Therefore, facial symmetry may signal the ability of an individual to cope with the challenges of their environment. Studies concerning the relationship between symmetry and attractiveness lead to the conclusion that preferences for symmetric faces may have some adaptive value. We hypothesized that if symmetry is indeed indicative of an individual’s overall quality, faces high in symmetry should receive higher ratings of attractiveness and health, but also be perceived as demonstrating certain positive personality attributes. College students’ attributions of a set of 20 female faces varying in facial symmetry were recorded. As predicted, faces high in symmetry received significantly higher ratings of attractiveness, health, and certain personality attributes (i.e., sociable, intelligent, lively, self-confident, balanced). Faces low in symmetry were rated as being more anxious. These differences were not caused by an attractiveness stereotype. The present results lend further support to the notions that (i) facial symmetry is perceived as being attractive, presumably reflecting health certification and (ii) people also consider facial symmetry as a cue to an individuals’ quality with regard to certain personality characteristics.

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