Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Paul Chang

Abstract

Throughout the human population, there is remarkable agreement as to what constitutes an attractive face. The consistency of attractiveness ratings across age, gender and culture has led to a search for an underlying construct that determines facial attractiveness. Langlois and Roggman (1990) proposed the "average is attractive" hypothesis arguing that facial attractiveness is determined by the level of averageness of facial features. Langlois and Roggman (1990) created composite faces to examine this hypothesis but their methodology was criticised, particularly because the technique used to create the composites tended to remove facial flaws and blemishes. This led to the argument that the increased attractiveness of the composite faces was the result of the smoothing of the faces rather than from their increased averageness. This study used photographic quality caricatures, which retain facial texture, to further examine the "average is attractive" hypothesis. From a digitised photograph, faces shifted away from the average by +18% and +36% (caricatures), and faces shifted closer to the average by -18% and -36% (anticaricatures) were produced. Along with the original photograph this provided five different versions of the same face varying only on averageness. Forty-eight of these face sets were created: six male and six female sets for the ages 6-, 8-, 10-year-olds and adults. Twenty participants in each of the age groups 6-, 8-, 1 0-year-olds and adults were asked to select the most and the least attractive face from each set. Examination of the mean caricature level chosen by each group found an overall preference for average faces providing support for the "average is attractive" hypothesis. The preference for average faces was present in the youngest age groups but the strength of the effect increased with age. There is, however, a suggestion that absolute averageness is not preferred, with some support for the idea of an optimum level of averageness.

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