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Female faces and bodies: n-dimensional feature space and attractiveness

Grammer, K., Fink, B., Juette, A., Ronzal, G. & Thornhill, R.


in : (2001). Female faces and bodies: n-dimensional feature space and attractiveness. In: G. Rhodes & L. Zebrobwitz (Eds.). Advances in Visual Cognition. Volume I: Facial Attractiveness. Ablex Publishing.

Many studies show that female attractiveness plays an important role in human mate selection. Research in the past has focused on the influence of single features, e.g., eye size or breast size, in attractiveness judgements. In recent years, bilateral symmetry and averageness or prototypic appearance have been discussed as possible general principles of attractiveness. The puzzle remaining is which features actually contribute to the perception of attractiveness and how are these integrated to result in attractiveness attribution.

In this paper we propose that attractiveness perception and judgment takes place in a multidimensional feature space. If attractiveness signals mate quality honestly, the single features making up the multiple dimension should actually correlate positively and thereby compose a single ornament of mate value. In a rating study, three sets of males (each n = 10) rated three views (face alone, nude back, and nude front with face covered) of digital images of women (n = 92) in Austria as well as in the USA. Symmetry, averageness, skin color, hair color, stimulus complexity and surface texture were assessed with digital image analysis. Thirty-six features on the digital images were measured by hand at anatomically defined points. A principal component analysis reveals that the n-dimensional feature space can be reduced to four main dimensions. Computer simulations of the possible underlying cognitive decision making imply that a fast and frugal algorithm, which uses the rule “simply avoid the worst,” best explains attractiveness ratings. Thus, beauty could be a negative concept, which finds its expression in the avoidance of ugliness.


Figures 1 a-c. This figure shows the landmarks on the three views (face, front and back) used in this study. Figure 2 a-c. This is the average morph of all 70 females from this study. Pictures were morphred in one single pass for all 70 subjects. Figure 3 a-d. This shows the moprhs of the 10 females in each factor who loaded highest in the regression scores of the respective factor.





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