Familiarity breeds attraction: effects of exposure on the attractiveness of typical and distinctive faces

Perception. 2004;33(2):147-57. doi: 10.1068/p5028.


Several studies have shown that facial attractiveness is positively correlated with both familiarity and typicality. Here we manipulated the familiarity of typical and distinctive faces to measure the effect on attractiveness. In our first experiment, we collected ratings of attractiveness, distinctiveness, and familiarity using three different groups of participants. Our stimuli included 84 images of female faces, presented in a full-face view. We replicated the finding that attractiveness ratings negatively correlate with distinctiveness ratings. In addition, we showed that attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with familiarity ratings. In our second experiment, we demonstrated that increasing exposure to faces increases their attractiveness, although there was no differential effect of exposure on typical and distinctive faces. Our results suggest that episodic familiarity affects attractiveness ratings independently of general or structural familiarity. The implications of our findings for the 'face-space' model are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Beauty*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Psychological Tests
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smiling / psychology