Study shows attractiveness of people not dependent on facial expression

March 12, 2013 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
Credit: AutismSpot

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers from the U.K.'s University of Portsmouth have conducted a study with the aim of attempting to discern if the attractiveness of a person's face is impacted by facial expression. In their paper published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, the team describes how they asked volunteers to look at pictures of people with different facial expressions and found that most rated the same people as attractive regardless of the expression on their face.

It's a common that people look more attractive to other people when they smile, but do less attractive people look more attractive when they do so, or do more attractive people look less so when their face shows anger, sorrow or displeasure? In this new effort, the research team set out to find the answers to such questions.

The researchers asked 128 male and female volunteers to look at headshot photographs of 16 women and 14 men, each displaying six different : anger, , happiness, fear, and surprise as well as a neutral expression. Participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of each of the people in the pictures but saw each person only once with a randomly chosen expression.

In analyzing their results, the team found that the volunteers rated the same people as attractive regardless of which facial expression they displayed. They also found that those people regarded as less attractive didn't fare any better when happy (smiling). They noted also that the results were the same regardless of the gender of the person in the picture, or the person looking at them.

The researchers suggest that despite the many ways people can move their faces around to express emotion, there is still a core that doesn't change and people can see that and use it to help in judging general attractiveness. They note also that facial attractiveness has long been believed to be a part of human mating rituals, with most people preferring those that look the best. They add that facial expression is still believed to play a role in helping people decide on whether to approach someone as a possible mate, however. A person seen as attractive, but scowling, for example, would not be seen as worthy of pursuit, whereas one smiling would be.

Explore further: Study shows difficulty in ability to discern facial symmetry helps explain 'beer goggles' effect

More information: The Stability of Facial Attractiveness: Is It What You've Got or What You Do with It? Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, DOI: 10.1007/s10919-013-0145-1 , http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10919-013-0145-1

Abstract
Physical attractiveness is suggested to be an indicator of biological quality and therefore should be stable. However, transient factors such as gaze direction and facial expression affect facial attractiveness, suggesting it is not. We compared the relative importance of variation between faces with variation within faces due to facial expressions. 128 participants viewed photographs of 14 men and 16 women displaying the six basic facial expressions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) and a neutral expression. Each rater saw each model only once with a randomly chosen expression. The effect of expressions on attractiveness was similar in male and female faces, although several expressions were not significantly different from each other. Identity was 2.2 times as important as emotion in attractiveness for both male and female pictures, suggesting that attractiveness is stable. Since the hard tissues of the face are unchangeable, people may still be able to perceive facial structure whatever expression the face is displaying, and still make attractiveness judgements based on structural cues.

Related Stories

Study shows difficulty in ability to discern facial symmetry helps explain 'beer goggles' effect

April 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- It's a part of modern lore that doesn’t reflect well on our species, the idea that as people consume alcoholic beverages, they see those around them as becoming more attractive. It’s known as ...

Group finds facial expressions not as universal as thought

April 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- For most of history, people have assumed that facial expressions are generally universal; a smile by someone of any cultural group generally is an expression of happiness or pleasure, for example. This ...

Research shows the parts of the brain involved in judging mate potential

November 8, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers from Ireland's Trinity College and Caltech in the US have found after analyzing brain scans of young volunteers, that two brain regions appear to be involved the decision making process when ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2013
It is not the expressions, it is the *proportions*. 'Beauty' is the absence of 'ugly,' which can be defined as any feature that is noticeably outside of the population average parametrically. Eyes that are too close/wide set, lips too thin or too fat, nose too long/short/high/low/wide/narrow, ears that are too high/low/long/round/etc. - and especially ANY noticeable asymmetry - all contribute 'ugly' to a face.
baudrunner
not rated yet Mar 12, 2013
Then the perfect face is plain and uninteresting.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Mar 13, 2013
When I do my eyebrow thingie there is no female who can resist.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.