Ps4029 30 perspectives on social attributions
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PS4029/30 Perspectives on social attributions. Lecture 4 Feb 2005. Lecture 3: Evolutionary advantage accounts of symmetry preferences. Accounts of sym preferences (recap) Does symmetry signal mate quality? Is symmetry particularly attractive in mate choice relevant stimuli?

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Ps4029 30 perspectives on social attributions

PS4029/30 Perspectives on social attributions

Lecture 4

Feb 2005


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Lecture 3: Evolutionary advantage accounts of symmetry preferences

Accounts of sym preferences (recap)

Does symmetry signal mate quality?

Is symmetry particularly attractive in mate choice relevant stimuli?

Is symmetry attractive independent of prototypicality?

Symmetric individuals are not only visually attractive


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1. Perceptual bias accounts (recap)

Symmetry is attractive because :

- symmetric stimuli of any kind are processed more easily by the visual system

than relatively asymmetric stimuli

- as a byproduct of the tendency for symmetric objects to be prototypical


Symmetry is attractive because of advantages associated with choosing a symmetric mate

1. Evolutionary advantage view

Symmetry is attractive because of advantages associated with choosing a symmetric mate


Non human species preferences for symmetry

Non-Human Species Preferences for Symmetry

  • Female barn swallows prefer males with symmetrical tail feathers

  • Female Zebra finches prefer symmetrical males

Møller, 1994, Anim Behav

Swaddle & Cuthill, 1994, Nature


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2. Does symmetry signal mate quality?

An important component of the evolutionary advantage view is

that symmetry may signal qualities that are desirable in a mate

(e.g. health, fertility)

[e.g. Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999]

This a hugely controversial issue but there have been some

positive relationships reported between symmetry and ‘mate

quality’


Symmetry and quality

Symmetry and Quality

  • Controversial area (Enquist et al., 2002)

  • Non-humans

    • Symmetry associated with ejaculate quality in 3 ungulates (hoofed animals)

    • Antler symmetry positively related to immune measures in reindeer

  • Humans

    • Body symmetry positively related to sperm number per ejaculate and sperm speed

    • Breast symmetry positively correlated with fecundity

Gomendio et al., 2000, Proc Royal Soc

Lagesen & Folstad, 1998, Behav Ecol Sociobio

Manning et al., 1998, Evo Human Behav

Møller et al., 1995, Ethol. Sociobio


Symmetry and quality ii

Symmetry and Quality II

Humans

  • facial symmetry positively related to intelligence

    (Zebrowitz et al., 2000)

  • Body symmetry positively related to athletic ability (Manning et al., 1998)

  • Facial symmetry positively related to masculinity

    (another putative cue to immunesystem strength, Gangestad & Thornhill, 2003)

    [we’ll return to the issue of masculine facial

    proportions as a signal of immunity to infection in lecture 7]


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3. Is symmetry particularly attractive in mate choice relevant stimuli?

Evolutionary advantage view emphasises importance of symmetry for ‘mate preferences/choices’

Perceptual bias views don’t


The mona lisa

The Mona Lisa


The thatcher illusion

The Thatcher Illusion

Eyes and mouth inverted


Symmetry preferences in upright and inverted faces

Symmetry Preferences in Upright and Inverted Faces

  • Inversion disrupts normal face processing - inverted faces are processed more like visual objects than faces

  • In regard to symmetry preference:

  • A simple perceptual bias view suggests symmetry preference should be constant across orientation about a vertical axis

  • Evolutionary Advantage view suggests symmetry particularly attractive in upright faces

Murray, Yong, & Rhodes, 2000, Psych Sci


Symmetry preference in upright and inverted opposite sex faces

Symmetry Preference in Upright and Inverted Opposite-Sex Faces

Little & Jones, 2003, Proc Royal Soc


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4. Is symmetry attractive independent of prototypicality?

Central to the perceptual bias account is the notion that symmetry preferences are an artifact of preferences for prototypicality

Evolutionary bias makes no such claim


Symmetry in familiar faces

Symmetry in Familiar Faces

Symmetric Asymmetric

  • Even though symmetric version is less familiar (and less prototypical), symmetry is still preferred - Little and Jones, 2003)


Symmetry and prototypicality

Symmetry and prototypicality

Ratings of the attractiveness of faces and ratings of their

distinctiveness (inverse of averageness) are -vely correlated

Ratings of the attractiveness of faces and symmetry are +vely

correlated

Ratings of the attractiveness of faces and symmetry are +vely

correlated when effects of distinctiveness are controlled using

a partial correlation design

  • Symmetry attractive independent of averageness

(Rhodes et al., 1999)


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5. Symmetric individuals are not only visually attractive

Perceptual bias account proposes that symmetry

preferences are a byproduct of the visual system

Evolutionary advantage view proposes that symmetry is

attractive because it signals an important underlying

quality (e.g. health)

Does symmetry predict attractiveness when you can’t see it?

Perceptual bias: NO (visual system needs symmetry as input)

Evolutionary advantage: YES (underlying quality also reflected in

other ways)


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Prototype faces tend towards very high symmetry

Composites of symmetric faces more attractive than

composites of asymmetric faces (Penton-Voak et al., 2001)

Supports evolutionary advantage view (must be correlates of

symmetry that are causing effect below because symmetry

not visible)

Judged:

Unattractive

Unhealthy

Unfit

Judged:

Attractive

Healthy

Fit

Composite of

asymmetric faces

Composite of

symmetric faces


Symmetry and attractiveness in other modalities

Symmetry and attractiveness in other modalities

  • Symmetric individuals have attractive voices

  • (Hughes et al., 2002)

  • Symmetric individuals have attractive body odours

  • [NB - in men this effect only emerges when female judges are in late follicular, fertile phase of menstrual cycle]

  • Rikowski & Grammer (1998)


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Lecture 4 Key Themes

1. That symmetry advertises qualities that are attractive in potential mates

Is consistent with Evolutionary Advantage view

2. That symmetry is more attractive in mate-choice relevant stimuli than

Other classes of stimuli Is consistent with Evolutionary Advantage view

(and also problematic for perceptual bias accounts)

3. That symmetry preferences occur for familiar faces and are attractive

independent of prototypicality is problematic for the perceptual bias view

4. That symmetry predicts attractive in non-visual stimuli is problematic

for the perceptual bias view and suggests attractiveness of symmetry

reflects an attractive underlying quality


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Next week: Does facial attractiveness signal health

Many theories of attraction (e.g. evolutionary advantage

view) propose that facial attractiveness signals health

Next week we’ll review the evidence for this claim.


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