, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 271-296

Criteria of facial attractiveness in five populations

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The theory of sexual selection suggests several possible explanations for the development of standards of physical attractiveness in humans. Asymmetry and departures from average proportions may be markers of the breakdown of developmental stability. Supernormal traits may present age- and sex-typical features in exaggerated form. Evidence from social psychology suggests that both average proportions and (in females) “neotenous” facial traits are indeed more attractive. Using facial photographs from three populations (United States, Brazil, Paraguayan Indians), rated by members of the same three populations, plus Russians and Venezuelan Indians, we show that age, average features, and (in females) feminine/neotenous features all play a role in facial attractiveness.

This research was supported by NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant BNS-9006394 and grants from the University of Michigan’s Department of Anthropology and Evolution and Human Behavior Program.
Doug Jones is a doctoral candidate in biological anthropology at the University of Michigan. He has done fieldwork in Paraguay, Brazil, the United States, and Russia, and is currently writing his dissertation on human physical attractiveness. His research interests include sexual selection inHomo sapiens, evolutionary psychology, “dual inheritance” theories of gene-culture coevolution, and the anthropology of Brazil.
Kim Hill is an associate professor in the Human Evolutionary Ecology Program at the University of New Mexico. His primary research interests include the evolutionary ecology of human reproductive strategies, sexual division of labor, life history, and resource acquisition. He has worked among the Ache of Paraguay and Hiwi of Venezuela as well as the Machiguenga and Yora of Peru. He is currently writing a demography of the Ache foragers. Recent publications include “The Evolution of Premature Reproductive Senescence and Menopause in Human Females” with A. Magdalena Hurtado (Human Nature 2(4):313–350, 1991).