Facial appearance in humans is associated with attraction and mate choice. Numerous studies have identified that adults display directional preferences for certain facial traits including symmetry, averageness, and sexually dimorphic traits. Typically, studies measuring human preference for these traits examine declared (e.g., choice or ratings of attractiveness) or visual preferences (e.g., looking time) of participants. However, the extent to which visual and declared preferences correspond remains relatively untested. In order to evaluate the relationship between these measures we examined visual and declared preferences displayed by men and women for opposite-sex faces manipulated across three dimensions (symmetry, averageness, and masculinity) and compared preferences from each method. Results indicated that participants displayed significant visual and declared preferences for symmetrical, average, and appropriately sexually dimorphic faces. We also found that declared and visual preferences correlated weakly but significantly. These data indicate that visual and declared preferences for manipulated facial stimuli produce similar directional preferences across participants and are also correlated with one another within participants. Both methods therefore may be considered appropriate to measure human preferences. However, while both methods appear likely to generate similar patterns of preference at the sample level, the weak nature of the correlation between visual and declared preferences in our data suggests some caution in assuming visual preferences are the same as declared preferences at the individual level. Because there are positive and negative factors in both methods for measuring preference, we suggest that a combined approach is most useful in outlining population level preferences for traits.
- Mate choice