Facial appearance as a cue of physical condition

Han, Chengyang (2018) Facial appearance as a cue of physical condition. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3305981


Social judgments of facial appearance may reflect that individual’s physical condition. In this thesis, I present empirical studies investigating social judgments of facial appearance and their underlying physiology. The first empirical chapter investigates the relationship between social judgments of women’s facial appearance and their salivary cortisol levels and body mass index (BMI). Faces of women with lower BMI were rated as more attractive, healthier, and more feminine. By contrast with previous research, social judgments of women’s faces were not related to their salivary cortisol, however. These results suggest that the type of health information reflected in women's faces includes qualities indexed by BMI, but does not necessarily include qualities indexed by cortisol.

In my second empirical chapter, I investigated the interrelationships among a composite measure of men's actual threat potential (derived from measures of their upper-body strength, height, and weight) and composite measures of these men's perceived facial and vocal threat potential (derived from dominance, strength, and weight ratings of their faces and voices, respectively). Although men's perceived facial and vocal threat potential were positively correlated, men's actual threat potential was related to their perceived facial, but not vocal, threat potential. Consistent with other recent work on cues of men’s threat potential, these results present new evidence that men's faces may be a more valid cue of these aspects of threat potential than their voices are.

Whereas Chapters 2 and 3 arguably focused on the possible role of face shape characteristics in communicating information about physical condition, Chapter 4 focused specifically on facial coloration. In Chapter 4, I investigated the effects of manipulating color cues in White UK and Chinese faces on White UK and Chinese participants’ judgments of attractiveness and health. By contrast with the cross-cultural similarity between White UK and Black African participants’ responses to facial coloration reported in previous studies, I found cultural differences in the effects of facial coloration on Chinese and White UK participants' facial attractiveness and health judgments. While both Chinese and White UK participants preferred faces with increased lightness and redness, Chinese participants had stronger preferences for lightness and White UK participants had stronger preferences for redness. More strikingly, while Chinese participants preferred faces with decreased yellowness, White UK participants preferred faces with increased yellowness, and this effect was not qualified by face ethnicity. These results suggest that preferences for facial coloration are not necessarily universal, but can differ across cultures.

The research reported in this thesis suggests that faces contain information about body size (Chapters 2 and 3). They also show that responses to facial color cues, a putative cue of physical condition preferences for which have previously been suggested to be highly similar across cultures, can vary as a function of cultural factors (Chapter 4). Together, these results indicate that, although aspects of physical condition may be reflected in facial appearance, responses to facial cues are not necessarily universal.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
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, Prof. Benedict
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Mr. Chengyang Han
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-8788
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2018 13:00
Last Modified: 11 May 2018 15:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/8788

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