Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Evaluations of Facial Attractiveness and Expression
by Peshek, Darren Joel, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2013, 115; 3548691
Abstract (Summary)

Efficient facial processing is central to many forms of interpersonal interactions. The present research explores several automatic perceptual processes used to evaluate facial attractiveness and expression. In the first study, we show how the visual system evaluates attractiveness information about the face, specifically a feature within the eyes called the limbal ring. The limbal ring is the dark ring around the iris, which becomes less noticeable with advancing age or poor health. Faces are more attractive with visible limbal rings than otherwise identical faces with no limbal rings, suggesting that the visual system has been shaped to automatically recognize the limbal ring as a probabilistic indicator of age and health. The second study expands our understanding of the limbal ring by testing if evaluations of the limbal ring are based on simple shortcuts - such as thicker is better or more contrast is better - or if our preferences are more finely tuned to how the appearance of limbal rings changes with age and health. We found that we do not use either of the simple shortcuts just mentioned, and that observers tend to agree about properties of limbal rings that look most attractive. This suggests the possibility of creating optimal limbal rings to increase facial attractiveness. The third study explores reflective highlights on the eyes and how they influence facial attractiveness. We show that faces with bright highlights are more attractive than faces with dimmed or absent highlights. Also, by manipulating the location of highlights in each eye, we show that the visual system is sensitive to the natural range of highlight placement. Results suggest we are more tolerant to horizontal disparities than to vertical disparities of the same magnitude. The fourth study turns focus to evaluations of emotional information within the face. By using static and dynamic gaze cues shown on three-dimensional, emotionally-chimeric face stimuli, we can redirect attention to either side of the face, and influence how observers extract emotional information about the face. Together, these studies help explain complex perceptual processes behind our seemingly effortless evaluations of the emotions and attractiveness of a face.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hoffman, Donald
Commitee: D'Zmura, Michael, Hoffman, Donald D., Iverson, Geoffry
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Psychology - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Evolution and Development, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Facial attractiveness, Facial expression, Good genes theory, Mate preference, Sexual selection
Publication Number: 3548691
ISBN: 978-1-267-84363-0
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