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Asymmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness: Symmetry May not Always be Beautiful

John P. Swaddle and Innes C. Cuthill
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 261, No. 1360 (Jul. 22, 1995), pp. 111-116
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/50054
Page Count: 6
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Asymmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness: Symmetry May not Always be Beautiful
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Abstract

It has been postulated that levels of fluctuating asymmetry in human faces may be negatively related to components of fitness such as parasite-resistance; hence potential mates with low levels of asymmetry may appear more attractive. However, previous investigations of the relationship between asymmetry and facial attractiveness have confounded manipulations of asymmetry with facial `averageness' and mean trait size. In this experiment we performed a manipulation that altered asymmetry within a face without altering the mean size of facial features. These faces were then rated on attractiveness. Contrary to what was predicted, faces that were made more symmetrical were perceived as being less attractive. These results do not support the hypothesis that attractiveness is related to low levels of fluctuating asymmetry. The observed positive relationship between asymmetry and facial attractiveness may be because certain facial features (including those contributing to attractiveness) in fact show directional asymmetry or antisymmetry. Our manipulations thus render naturally asymmetric features symmetrical. This may make symmetric faces less attractive because of the reduction of natural directional asymmetries, perhaps making the faces appear unemotional. The role of fluctuating asymmetries alone in assessments of facial beauty is still unknown, although this experiment suggests fluctuating asymmetry is relatively unimportant compared with directional asymmetry.

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