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Sensitivity to 'bad genes' and the anomalous face overgeneralization effect: Cue validity, cue utilization and accuracy in judging intelligence and health

Author(s): Zebrowitz LA, Rhodes G


The bad genes and anomalous face overgeneralization accounts of facial preferences were tested by examining cue validity, cue utilization, and accuracy in judging health and intelligence from faces in the upper and lower halves of the distributions of attractiveness and its components: averageness, symmetry, and masculinity. Consistent with the bad genes hypothesis, facial attractiveness, averageness, symmetry, and male face masculinity each provided valid cues to intelligence and/or health for faces in the lower but not the upper halves of the distributions of these facial qualities. Consistent with the anomalous face overgeneralization hypothesis, attractiveness and its components were utilized as cues not only for faces in the lower halves of the distributions, but also for those in the upper halves. Intelligence and health were judged accurately for faces in the lower but not the upper half of the attractiveness distribution, and attractiveness mediated this accuracy at all ages except adolescence. Since adolescence is the prime mating age, the latter finding raises questions about the utility of attractiveness as an evolved mechanism to ensure the selection of high quality mates.

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