Bernhard Fink and Ian Penton-Voak (2002)

Evolutionary psychology of facial attractiveness

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5):154-158.

The human face communicates an impressive number of visual signals. Although adults' ratings of facial attractiveness are consistent across studies, even cross-culturally, there has been considerable controversy surrounding attempts to identify the facial features that cause faces to be judged attractive or unattractive. Studies of physical attractiveness have attempted to identify the features that contribute to attractiveness by studying the relationships between attractiveness and (a) symmetry, (b) averageness, and (c) nonaverage sexually dimorphic features (hormone markers). Evolutionary psychology proposes that these characteristics all pertain to health, suggesting that humans have evolved to view certain features as attractive because they were displayed by healthy individuals. However, the question remains how single features that are considered attractive relate to each other, and if they form a single ornament that signals mate quality. Moreover, some researchers have recently explained attractiveness preferences in terms of individual differences that are predictable. This article briefly describes what is currently known from attractiveness research, reviews some recent advances, and suggests areas for future researchers' attention.