Self-resemblance and attractiveness

Is Beauty in the Face of the Beholder?
Opposing forces influence assortative mating so that one seeks a similar mate while at the same time avoiding inbreeding with close relatives. Thus, mate choice may be a balancing of phenotypic similarity and dissimilarity between partners. In the present study, we assessed the role of resemblance to Self’s facial traits in judgments of physical attractiveness. Participants chose the most attractive face image of their romantic partner among several variants, where the faces were morphed so as to include only 22% of another face. Participants distinctly preferred a “Self-based morph” (i.e., their partner’s face with a small amount of Self’s face blended into it) to other morphed images. The Self-based morph was also preferred to the morph of their partner’s face blended with the partner’s same-sex “prototype”, although the latter face was (“objectively”) judged more attractive by other individuals. When ranking morphs differing in level of amalgamation (i.e., 11% vs. 22% vs. 33%) of another face, the 22% was chosen consistently as the preferred morph and, in particular, when Self was blended in the partner’s face. A forced-choice signal-detection paradigm showed that the effect of self-resemblance operated at an unconscious level, since the same participants were unable to detect the presence of their own faces in the above morphs. We concluded that individuals, if given the opportunity, seek to promote “positive assortment” for Self’s phenotype, especially when the level of similarity approaches an optimal point that is similar to Self without causing a conscious acknowledgment of the similarity. [. . .]

Current psychological research on human attractiveness has replaced the relativistic belief that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” with a universalistic one. [. . .]

However, the opposition between the relativistic and the universalistic perspectives may only be apparent, since one can posit the coexistence of an early, developmental, “imprinting” for physical traits of close con-specifics (typically, family members but also Self) as another universal mechanism that accounts for kin recognition as well as having an impact on mating preferences [5]. Indeed, face recognition mechanisms are heritable [6] and humans may be born with a schematic knowledge of the human face, which is then modified or filled out through exposure to human faces early in life. Thus, on one hand, a facial attribute like averageness would be based on a lifetime exposure to a large number of other con-specifics [7], so that one would expect that individuals within the same social group would tend to share a very similar (or seemingly “universal”) sense of what is the human average appearance. On the other hand, an imprinting mechanism, based on early experience, would lead to the opposite effect of establishing idiosyncratic “ideals” of beauty that may differ considerably between individuals. Thus, the coexistence of general learning mechanisms and mechanisms of kin recognition should shape ideals of facial (or bodily) aesthetics that are to a great deal consistent across many individuals but contain some elements that are unique to each individual.

1 comment:

Macgyver said...

The real mechanisms that produce within-pair similarity of physical attractiveness are [Kalick & Hamilton 1986, Lee et al. 2008, Courtiol et al. 2010, Hitsch et al. 2010]:

1) Courtship Rejections
2) Strategic Courtship and
3) Tentative Relationships

It has been proved that two other previously proposed mechanisms (homotypic preference and phenotypic correlation)were wrong:

A) Homotypic Preference: This means that individuals prefer partners of similar attractiveness to their own. Scientists premised homotypic preference for a long time [Walster et al. 1966] until empirical research proved that people prefer individuals of high attractiveness rather than that similar to their own [Walster et al. 1966, Huston 1973] (see also Asendorpf et al. 2011, Back et al. 2011; Hitsch et al. 2010, Shaw Taylor et al. 2011], Okcupid Blog, etc).

B) Phenotypic Correlation. Within-pair matching for a feature may arise even if people pay no attention to this feature in prospective partners, if the feature is correlated with a trait of homotypic preference. For example, the homotypic preference for body height results in matching on the length of arms [Crow & Felsenstein 1968]. Because people perceive faces similar to their own in a positive way, matching in physical attractiveness may result from seeking a physically similar partner [Lee et al. 2008]. However, the preference for selfsimilar faces pertains largely or exclusively to own-sex rather than opposite-sex faces [DeBruine et al. 2008, Watkins et al. 2011, but see Fraley & Marks 2010]. Furthermore, facial attractiveness is non-monotonically associated with many traits, and peaks at their medium, not extreme, values. For example, facial attractiveness increases with the averageness of facial proportions [Rhodes 2006, Kościński 2007], and women prefer men with moderately masculine faces [Kościński 2007, Scott & Penton- Voak 2011]. This weakens the influence of a possible preference for self-similar partners for within-pair matching on attractiveness. Manipulated images of other-sex faces are judged as more trustworthy by the participants they were made to resemble than by control participants. In contrast, the effects of resemblance on attractiveness are significantly lower. In the context of a long-term relationship, where both prosocial regard and sexual appeal are important criteria, facial resemblance has no effect. In the context of a short-term relationship, where sexual appeal is the dominant criterion, facial resemblance decrease attractiveness.

Humans are sensitive to the costs and benefits of favouring kin in different circumstances, therefore cues of relatedness have a positive effect on prosocial feelings, but a negative effect on sexual attraction. Women do not show any preference for similarity; they prefer the most attractive male and female faces. In contrast, in some studies, men prefer the most attractive images of the opposite sex to self-resembling faces and the self-resembling to non-resembling faces. (Maybe facial male self-resemblance serves as a kinship cue that facilitates cooperation between kin.