Preferences for symmetry in human faces in two cultures: Data from the UK and the Hadza, an isolated group of hunter-gatherers

Anthony C. Little, Coren L. Apicella, Frank W. Marlowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (SciVal)


Many studies show agreement within and between cultures for general judgements of facial attractiveness. Few studies, however, have examined the attractiveness of specific traits and few have examined preferences in hunter-gatherers. The current study examined preferences for symmetry in both the UR and the Hadza, a hunter-gatherer society of Tanzania. We found that symmetry was more attractive than asymmetry across both the cultures and was more strongly preferred by the Hadza than in the UR. The different ecological conditions may play a role in generating this difference. Such variation in preference may be adaptive if it reflects adaptation to local conditions. Symmetry is thought to indicate genetic quality, which may be more important among the Hadza with much higher mortality rates from birth onwards. Hadza men who were more often named as good hunters placed a greater value on symmetry in female faces. These results suggest that high quality Hadza men are more discriminating in their choice of faces. Hadza women had increased preferences for symmetry in men's faces when they were pregnant or nursing, perhaps due to their increased discrimination and sensitivity to foods and disease harmful to a foetus or nursing infant. These results imply that symmetry is an evolutionarily relevant trait and that variation in symmetry preference appears strategic both between cultures and within individuals of a single culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3113-3117
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1629
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2007


  • Asymmetry
  • Cross-cultural agreement
  • Culture
  • Facial attractiveness
  • Hadza

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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