Social perception of facial cues of adiposity

Fisher, Claire (2017) Social perception of facial cues of adiposity. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Previous research suggests that facial characteristics associated with body mass index (BMI) play an important role in health and attractiveness judgments of faces. However, very little work has investigated the factors that predict individual differences in preferences for facial cues of adiposity or how these individual differences are related to social outcomes.

In light of the above, the first two empirical chapters of this thesis investigated the relationships between individual differences in preferences for facial cues of adiposity and (1) the BMI of men’s and women’s actual romantic partners and (2) disgust sensitivity. Analyses suggested that people with particularly strong preferences for slim-looking faces were more likely to have partners with low BMI and that men, but not women, who scored higher on pathogen disgust showed stronger aversions to faces displaying cues associated with high BMI.

The third chapter investigated how people integrate information from shape cues of adiposity and information from skin color when judging the health and attractiveness of faces. Analyses showed that preferences for cues of low BMI were particularly strong when assessing faces displaying skin color cues associated with the absence of illness. These results suggest that integrating information from shape cues of adiposity and information from skin color could allow people to distinguish between individuals with low BMI because they are healthy and those with low BMI due to illness.

Most research investigating the role of facial cues of adiposity in social perception has focused on the possible role of facial adiposity as a health cue. However, it is also possible that facial cues of adiposity contain other types of information, such as information about a person’s reported sociosexual orientation (openness to short-term, uncommitted sexual relationships). To explore this issue, the fourth empirical chapter of my thesis investigated the relationship between facial correlates of BMI and women’s sociosexual orientation. Although analyses suggested that slimmer women reported greater openness to short-term, uncommitted sexual relationships, the observed relationships were weak and, thus, unlikely to play an important role in social interactions.

Together these studies support the claim that responses to facial cues of adiposity are related to romantic partner choice and function to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy individuals.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Facial attractiveness, adiposity, social perception, bmi.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Funder's Name: European Research Council (ERC)
Supervisor's Name: Jones, Professor Benedict
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Miss Claire Fisher
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8334
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2017 11:36
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2017 10:08

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