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Title: Face and body perception and the physical traits that influence attractiveness in humans
Author: Kemp, Shelly Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 8773
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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Evolutionary theory has formed the foundation of much of the current research into human mate-choice behaviour. How attractive we find other people greatly influences our decisions as to who we choose to mate with. A number of traits have been found to influence human mate choice preferences and decisions, and most of them relate in various ways to factors that underpin attractiveness. A number of key traits have been identified that influence both perceptions of health (honest signals) and attractiveness, but relatively little is known about the relative importance of multiple traits and how they co-vary. The aim of this thesis was to combine, using one set of stimuli, the main factors that are known to influence judgements of facial and bodily attractiveness in order to examine the relative importance of each. The aim of the' first study was to determine the relative contributions of the face and the body to overall attractiveness, and to identify which physical attributes most influence attractiveness judgements. To do this, more than 20 known correlates of attractiveness were quantified in both males and females and participants of both genders rated the faces and bodies of the stimuli donors. The physical traits were compared in the faces and bodies ranked highest and lowest in attractiveness to see whether attractive and unattractive people differed significantly in any physical measure. In the second part of this thesis eye-tracking technology was used to explore whether patterns of visual inspection of faces and bodies corresponded with the results of behavioural studies. For the eye-tracking component of the study, an independent set of male and female participants' visual attention was recorded while they visually inspected and then rated the images for attractiveness. Comparisons of males and females' eye movements were made in order to see where each gender directed their attention in an attractiveness rating task and to interpret these with regard to different pressures on each gender regarding mate choice. Comparisons were also made to explore whether male and female stimuli attract visual attention to different areas. In a third study, another independent group of volunteers rated the attractiveness of isolated parts of the images (regions of interest). The results from the studies highlighted the relative importance of face over body attractiveness on overall attractiveness. Important physical traits were statistically identified as predictors for female attractiveness with the most important being femininity and Body Mass Index; however the results were not so obvious for male attractiveness. Analysis of visual attention to face, body and full stimuli supported the key importance of the face in attractiveness judgments as a relatively large proportion of fixations were directed at the face. However, other than this evidence for the importance of the face, patterns of eye movements to stimuli were selective but were not directed at the specific contributors to attractiveness that were predicted. Despite differences in the importance of different regions of faces and bodies, and differences in perceived attractiveness of different parts, it was also revealed that attractiveness can be perceived accurately by viewing isolated segments of people's faces and bodies. The findings of this thesis provide support for redundant signalling theory of attractiveness whereby attractiveness is proposed to result from the chooser considering the overall quality of a potential mate by weighing up multiple traits that signal an individual's underlying quality (Moller & Pomiankowski, 1993). The results also support honest signalling theory because separate parts of faces and bodies without reference to the whole stimuli corresponded to independent ratings of attractiveness category i.e. high attractiveness people are made up of high attractiveness parts, whereas low attractiveness people have low attractiveness parts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available