Preferring and detecting face symmetry: Comparing children and adults judging human and monkey faces

Anthony C. Little, Jack A.F. Griffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Background: Visual symmetry is often found attractive. Symmetry may be preferred either due to a bias in the visual system or due to evolutionary selection pressures related to partner preference. Simple perceptual bias views predict that symmetry preferences should be similar across types of stimuli and unlikely to be related to factors such as age. Methods: The current study examined preferences for symmetry across age groups (pre-puberty vs post-puberty) and stimuli type (human face vs monkey face). Pairs of images manipulated for symmetry were presented and participants asked to choose the image they preferred. Participants repeated the task and were asked to detect symmetry. Results: Both age of observer and stimuli type were associated with symmetry preferences. Older observers had higher preferences for symmetry but preferred it most in human vs monkey stimuli. Across both age groups, symmetry preferences and detection abilities were weakly related. Conclusions: The study supports some ideas from an evolutionary advantage view of symmetry preference, whereby symmetry is expected be higher for potential partners (here human faces) and higher post-puberty when partner choice becomes more relevant. Such potentially motivational based preferences challenge perceptual bias explanations as a sole explanation for symmetry preferences but may occur alongside them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2112
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2020


  • Asymmetry
  • Detection
  • Development
  • Face preference
  • Symmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematics(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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