Bariş Özener and Bernhard Fink

Facial symmetry in young girls and boys from a slum and a control area of Ankara, Turkey

Evolution and Human Behavior

Deviations from perfect symmetry in paired traits of otherwise bilateral symmetrical organisms are thought to reflect developmental quality, especially the ability to resist environmental perturbations early in ontogeny. It is well established that poor environmental conditions increase developmental instability (DI) as reflected by measurements of fluctuating asymmetry. In humans, there is evidence that DI relates to numerous fitness components, and studies have found that perceptions of facial attractiveness for example are positively correlated with measurements of facial symmetry. Here we report the data on measurements of facial symmetry of 503 Turkish senior year high school students aged 17 to 18 years, of whom 133 males and 117 females were recruited from a slum district of Şentepe in Ankara (Group 1), and 131 males and 122 females from three high schools in wealthy central urban areas (Group 2). Digital images were used to assess the degree of facial asymmetry as measured from seven paired traits and calculated as a composite score. Facial asymmetry of participants in Group 1 (slum district) was significantly higher than that of participants in Group 2 (urban areas). Moreover, males in Group 1 were found to have higher facial asymmetry than females, while no sex difference was observed in Group 2. We conclude that poor living conditions have an influence on DI in humans, which manifests itself in the form of facial asymmetry, and that this might be particularly true for males.