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Gillian I Rhodes, Linda Jeffery, Tamara L Watson, Colin W Clifford, Ken Nakayama; Face attractiveness aftereffects: fitting the mind to the world. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):298. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/3.9.298.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Average faces are attractive, but what is average depends on experience. We investigated the role of perceptual adaptation in tuning our preferences to fit the faces we experience. We examined the effect of brief exposure to consistent facial distortions on what looks normal (average) and what looks attractive. Adaptation to a particular distortion resulted in a shift in what looks normal and what looks average in the direction of that distortion. These normality and attractivenesss aftereffects occurred when the test faces were rotated 90* relative to the adapting faces (from 45* left to 45* right, or vice versa), suggesting that the adaptation affects high-level neurons whose coding is not strictly retinotopic. Our results suggest that perceptual adaptation can rapidly renormalize face-space to reflect consistent changes in the characteristics of faces that we experience and that our preferences are calibrated to match those characteristics. They also suggest that average faces are attractive because of their central location in a distribution of faces (i.e., their prototypicality), rather than any intrinsic appeal of particular characteristics, because faces with those characteristics become less attractive when they become less prototypical. The functional consequences of this recalibration are far from trivial, given the powerful effects of perceived attractiveness on person perception, mate choice, social interactions and social outcomes for individuals.
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