Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 149–156 | Cite as

It’s not just average faces that are attractive: Computer-manipulated averageness makes birds, fish, and automobiles attractive

  • Jamin HalberstadtEmail author
  • Gillian Rhodes
Brief Reports


Average faces are attractive. We sought to distinguish whether this preference is an adaptation for finding high-quality mates (thedirect selectionaccount) or whether it reflects more general informationprocessing mechanisms. In three experiments, we examined the attractiveness of birds, fish, and automobiles whose averageness had been manipulated using digital image manipulation techniques common in research on facial attractiveness. Both manipulated averageness and rated averageness were strongly associated with attractiveness in all three stimulus categories. In addition, for birds and fish, but not for automobiles, the correlation between subjective averageness and attractiveness remained significant when the effect of subjective familiarity was partialled out. The results suggest that at least two mechanisms contribute to the attractiveness of average exemplars. One is a general preference for familiar stimuli, which contributes to the appeal of averageness in all three categories. The other is a preference for averageness per se, which was found for birds and fish, but not for automobiles, and may reflect a preference for features signaling genetic quality in living organisms, including conspecifics.


Line Drawing Landmark Point Facial Attractiveness Familiar Stimulus Developmental Stability 
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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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