The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty

Annu Rev Psychol. 2006;57:199-226. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190208.


What makes a face attractive and why do we have the preferences we do? Emergence of preferences early in development and cross-cultural agreement on attractiveness challenge a long-held view that our preferences reflect arbitrary standards of beauty set by cultures. Averageness, symmetry, and sexual dimorphism are good candidates for biologically based standards of beauty. A critical review and meta-analyses indicate that all three are attractive in both male and female faces and across cultures. Theorists have proposed that face preferences may be adaptations for mate choice because attractive traits signal important aspects of mate quality, such as health. Others have argued that they may simply be by-products of the way brains process information. Although often presented as alternatives, I argue that both kinds of selection pressures may have shaped our perceptions of facial beauty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beauty*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Culture
  • Esthetics
  • Face*
  • Facial Asymmetry
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychological Theory
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Desirability