5. Physical Attractiveness, Facial Beauty
- Recently, we have achieved a research program in which certain general principles of attractiveness will be studied (Mesko 2007). First, we compose average female faces, then each facial trait on these faces is changed using a specific computer program (that means increasing or decreasing the measure of lip and jaw, enlarging or reducing the size of the eye, etc.). We are interested in the relationships among various facial features; how each of them contributes to the attractiveness judgment as a whole. For example, what is a measure of decreasing the size of the eye or increasing the size of the jaw for subjects to totally change their previous evaluations on female beauty? May an increase in the attractiveness of a single trait (e.g. enhancing the thickness of lip) counterbalance the effect of decreasing attractiveness on another feature (e.g. making cheekbones less high and prominent)? What are the specific measures for each trait that would be responsible for such a shift of attractiveness judgments? Results show men's preference for near average regions of the female face. No different choices were found in different features, averaged facial parts seemed to be most attractive in each case, and no discriminative results showed up for 5 percent changes. Judges seem not to have percieved these differences. Changes in facial features bigger than this had an exponential effect, i.e. the bigger the change the less attractive the face was found. In a different setting with these pictures, our results seem to be more differentiated. Using forced choice task method participants only had to choose the most and least attractive of the pictures. Results show men to be sensitive to changes in size of the female chin. Results of former study contradict our hypotheses, but underline the effect of átlagosság and confirm Single Features Approach (Thornhill és Grammer 1999), as far as variations in average face can not modify attractivity optionally, because this would be an artificial change in a certain feature-complex. On the other hand according to our second study, faces with smaller chin were found more attractive. This result is in accordance with the results of Pettijohn and Tesser (1999), who suggest demand for signals of the maturity of female faces to be bigger in a decreasing economic situation. In their study several demographic and economic data were collected, such as changes in prices and income. These were compared with the face proportion data of the 81 most popular american actress of the same period (1932-1995). When economy stagnated, preference was higher for mature, square features such as bigger chin in these ideal, iconic female faces. In our method no such data were included, but we assume, that our results verifies the ecological validity of judging beauty as in Miltiple Fitness Theory (Cunningham et al. 2002).
- The widespread view in social sciences that physical beauty is arbitrary has been seriously questioned recently by evolutionary psychology. Yet does the same hold true of humans and, more specifically, beauty? Human beings had been selected to evaluate cues associated with the reproductive value of a potential mate. Recently we have focused on head hair as a reliable signal of phenotype quality (Mesko and Bereczkei 2004). Although facial features that are considered beautiful across cultures are interpreted in the framework of sexual selection theories, the effects of head hair on our aesthetic evaluations are rarely examined from an evolutionary perspective. In a recent study the effects of six hairstyles (short, medium-length, long, disheveled, knot, unkempt) on female facial attractiveness were examined in four dimensions (femininity, youth, health, sexiness), compared to faces without visible head hair (“basic face”). Three evolutionary hypotheses were tested (covering hypothesis, healthy mate theory, and good genes model), of which good genes model was supported by our data. In the light of this theory, those individuals can afford the high costs of long hair who have good phenotypic and genetic quality. In accordance with this hypothesis, we found that only long and medium-length hair had a significant positive effect on women’s attractiveness, the other hairstyles did not influence the evaluation of their physical beauty. Furthermore, these two hairstyles caused much larger change in the dimension of health than in the rest of dimensions. Finally, male raters considered the female subjects’ health status better, especially if the subjects were less attractive women.
- In another recent study we found that the physical appearance of long-haired women was highly rated, regardless of their facial attractiveness being judged high or low. The advantageous hairstyles improved the image of health only for women who have disadvantageous facial features. Furthermore, hair condition – quality of hair – does not seem to correspond with physical attractiveness; beautiful women were not more likely to have strong, stuffed, healthy scalp hair than less attractive women, as the redundant signal theory expects. All of these results seem to support multiple fitness theory rather than redundant signaling theory. If scalp hair and facial features signal different or even opposite aspects of physical attractiveness, their interplay brings about a huge variety of physical appearance that are, nevertheless, limited by the subjects’ reproductive interests. It was revealed that less attractive women are more likely to have long or medium-length hair, whereas more attractive ones seem to change their hairdos more frequently. These results suggest that women deliberately – although not necessarily consciously – opt for a particular hairstyle, or change their coiffures in a way that helps them to shift to a category of more valuable and desirable mate (Bereczkei and Mesko 2006).
- Bereczkei T. Evolúciós pszichológia. Osiris Kiadó, Bp., 2003.
- Meskó N., Bernáth L., Bereczkei T. (2004) A női arc vonzóereje: a perceptuális szűrók hierarchiája. In: László J., Kállai J. és Bereczkei T. (Szerk.) A reprezentáció szintjei. Gondolat Kiadó, 250-260.
- Bereczkei T., Mesko N. (2006) Hair length, facial attractiveness, personality attribution: a multiple fitness model of hairdressing. Review of Psychology 13: 1-60.
- Mesko N., Bereczkei T. (2004) Hairstyle as an adaptive means of displaying phenotypic quality. Human Nature 15: 251-270.
- Mesko, N., Bereczkei T. (2005) Hairstyles and female facial attractiveness. 7 th Alps-Adria Conference in Psychology, Zadar, Croatia