All chins are not created equal

April 12, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. --- That jutting jawline may not be as universally attractive as scientists have assumed.

One of the theories behind universal facial attractiveness (UFA) is that some facial features are universally preferred because they are reliable signals of mate quality. But a new Northwestern University study tests one of the assumptions that the chin, commonly discussed in UFA literature, is consistent in shape across human populations.

Researchers found significant differences in chin shape across populations.

"This suggests that either sexual selection hasn't been important in shaping chin shape in humans or that facial preferences differ between populations," said Zaneta Thayer, a doctoral student in anthropology at Northwestern University and lead author of the study.

The findings also suggest that human mate choices are based on more than just attractiveness.

"We hope that our study will encourage evolutionary psychologists to consider how their research on facial attractiveness actually influences 'evolutionary success' as measured through number of offspring produced," Thayer said.

"By evaluating patterns of variation in actual trait distribution within and between populations, we can get a better sense of what previous selection has actually looked like in these populations."

Thayer's current study builds on previous research she and her co-author Seth Dobson of Dartmouth College conducted in 2010. They evaluated competing theories for the adaptive significance of the human chin. She stressed that humans are the only primates with a chin, one of the unique characteristics that defines our species.

"We found that the indigenous Australian population had the most unique chin shape pattern relative to other populations," Thayer said. "That said, even after removing this population from the analysis, significant differences remained between other populations."

Thayer said researchers should think more critically about whether facial preferences inform us about actual mate success in humans.

"Since humans have evolved to be such socially complex individuals, it is not surprising that their mate decisions are based on more than just attractiveness," she said.

The study, "Geographic Variation in Chin Shape Challenges the Universal Facial Attractiveness Hypothesis," is the first study to examine the universal facial attractiveness theory not using data looking at facial preferences but instead using actual patterns of variation in the shape of traits themselves. Dobson is also co-author of this study. The article appeared in PLOS One April 3.

Northwestern University

Related Attractiveness Articles from Brightsurf:

Is being generous the next beauty trend?
Research from Indiana University found that more attractive people are more likely to be givers, and givers are rated as more attractive.

Unattainable standards of beauty for today's woman
While the average American woman's waist circumference and dress size has increased over the past 20 years, Victoria's Secret fashion models have become more slender, with a decrease in bust, waist, hips and dress size, though their waist to hip ratio (WHR) has remained constant.

Study finds companies may be wise to share cybersecurity efforts
Research finds that when one company experiences a cybersecurity breach, other companies in the same field also become less attractive to investors.

Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner according to a new international study
One of the top qualities that we look for in a long-term partner is kindness, according to new research by Swansea University.

What do the red 'ornaments' of female macaques mean?
Scientists demonstrated that, contrary to what had been assumed for several years, colour variations among female macaques do not precisely indicate the time of ovulation.

Backed in black: How to get people to buy more produce
Researchers may have figured out the secret to get people to buy more fresh produce: dress veggies up in black.

Facial plastic surgery in men enhances perception of attractiveness, trustworthiness
In the first of a kind study, plastic surgeons at Georgetown University found that when a man chose to have facial plastic surgery, it significantly increased perceptions of attractiveness, likeability, social skills, or trustworthiness.

Is facial cosmetic surgery associated with perception changes for attractiveness, masculinity, personality traits in men?
Photographs of 24 men before and after facial cosmetic surgery were part of this survey study to examine whether surgery was associated with perceived changes in attractiveness, masculinity and a variety of personality traits.

Commentary asks: What constitutes beauty and how is it perceived?
Beauty has many facets. Research shows there are many biological, psychological, cultural and social aspects that influence how beauty and attractiveness are perceived.

Gender bias sways how we perceive competence in faces
Faces that are seen as competent are also perceived as more masculine, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Read More: Attractiveness News and Attractiveness Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to