MHC-assortative facial preferences in humans

S. Craig Roberts, Anthony C. Little, L. Morris Gosling, Benedict C. Jones, David I. Perrett, Vaughan Carter, Marion Petrie

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65 Citations (SciVal)


Individuals tend to choose mates who are sufficiently genetically dissimilar to avoid inbreeding. As facial attractiveness is a key factor in human mate preference, we investigated whether facial preferences were related to genetic dissimilarity. We asked female volunteers to rate the attractiveness of men from photographs and compared these results with individual genotypes at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). In contrast to previously reported preferences based on odour, we found a non-significant tendency for women to rate MHC-similar faces as more attractive, suggesting a preference for cues to a self-similar MHC in faces. Further analysis revealed that male faces received higher attractiveness scores when rated by women who were MHC-similar than by MHC-dissimilar women. Although unexpected, this MHC-similar facial preference is consistent with other studies documenting assortative preferences in humans, including for facial phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-403
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2005


  • Beauty
  • Good genes
  • Heterozygosity
  • HLA
  • Imprinting
  • Mate choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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