Attraction independent of detection suggests special mechanisms for symmetry preferences in human face perception

Anthony C. Little, Benedict C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Symmetrical human faces are attractive and it has been proposed that humans have a specialized mechanism for detecting symmetry in faces and that sensitivity to symmetry determines symmetry preferences. Here, we show that symmetry preferences are influenced by inversion, whereas symmetry detection is not and that within individuals the ability to detect facial symmetry is not related to preferences for facial symmetry. Taken together, these findings suggest that symmetry preferences are indeed driven by a mechanism that is independent of conscious detection. A specialized mechanism for symmetry preference independent of detection may be the result of specific pressures faced by human ancestors to select high-quality mates and could support a modular view of mate choice. Unconscious mechanisms determining face preferences may explain why the reasons behind attraction are often difficult to articulate and demonstrate that detection alone cannot explain symmetry preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3093-3099
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1605
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2006


  • bias
  • detection
  • evolution
  • face perception
  • preference
  • symmetry

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