Viewing heavy bodies enhances preferences for facial adiposity

D. E. Re, V. Coetzee, D. K. Xiao, D. Buls, Bernie Tiddeman, L. G. Boothroyd, D. I. Perrett

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Experience-dependent changes in mate choice preferences may confer an evolutionary benefit by shifting preferences towards traits that are advantageous for specific environments. Previous studies have demonstrated that prolonged exposure to one type of face or body biases perceptions of subsequently viewed faces and bodies, respectively, but only one study has found face after-effects produced by adaptation to body images. We tested whether preferences in facial adiposity (perceptions of weight from the face) were affected by viewing heavy or light bodies. We first assessed facial adiposity preferences by asking Caucasian participants (n=60) to transform three-dimensional female faces along a body mass index (BMI) continuum until they reached optimal attractiveness. Participants then viewed heavy or light body images with their faces cropped out in a distracter task before repeating the face preference task. Participants who viewed heavy bodies shifted preferences toward significantly higher facial adiposity, while those who viewed the light bodies showed no significant overall shift. Findings are discussed in terms of potential neural populations involved in producing after-effects. Specifically, we hypothesise after-effects are unlikely to reflect mechanisms responsible for low-level sensory mechanisms and instead reflect high-level integration of information relevant to mate choice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2011


  • adaptation
  • after-effects
  • body mass index
  • 3-D faces


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