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Cross-cultural perception of female facial appearance: A multi-ethnic and multi-centre study


Voegeli, Rainer et al. (2020), Cross-cultural perception of female facial appearance: A multi-ethnic and multi-centre study, Dryad, Dataset,


Humans extract and use information from the face in assessments of physical appearance. Previous research indicates high agreement about facial attractiveness within and between cultures. However, the use of a narrow age range for facial stimuli, limitations due to unidirectional cross-cultural comparisons, and technical challenges have prevented definitive conclusions about the universality of face perception. In the present study, we imaged the faces of women aged 20 to 69 years in five locations (China, France, India, Japan, and South Africa) and secured age, attractiveness, and health assessments on continuous scales (0-100) from female and male raters (20-66 years) within and across ethnicity. In total, 180 images (36 of each ethnicity) were assessed by 600 raters (120 of each ethnicity), recruited in study centres in the five locations. Linear mixed model analysis revealed main and interaction effects of assessor ethnicity, assessor gender, and photographed participant (“face”) ethnicity on age, attractiveness, and health assessments. Thus, differences in judgments of female facial appearance depend on the ethnicity of the photographed person, the ethnicity of the assessor, and whether the assessor is female or male. Facial age assessments correlated negatively with attractiveness and health assessments. Collectively, these findings provide evidence of cross-cultural variation in assessments of age, and even more of attractiveness, and health, indicating plasticity in perception of female facial appearance across cultures, although the decline in attractiveness and health assessments with age is universally found.