The Influence of Averageness on Adults’ Perceptions of Attractiveness: The Effect of Early Visual Deprivation
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Adults who missed early visual input because of congenital cataracts later have deficits in many aspects of face processing. Here we investigated whether they make normal judgments of facial attractiveness. In particular, we studied whether their perceptions are affected normally by a face's proximity to the population mean, as is true of typically developing adults, who find average faces to be more attractive than most other faces. We compared the judgments of facial attractiveness of 12 cataract-reversal patients to norms established from 36 adults with normal vision. Participants viewed pairs of adult male and adult female faces that had been transformed 50% toward and 50% away from their respective group averages, and selected which face was more attractive. Averageness influenced patients' judgments of attractiveness, but to a lesser extent than controls. The results suggest that cataract-reversal patients are able to develop a system for representing faces with a privileged position for an average face, consistent with evidence from identity aftereffects. However, early visual experience is necessary to set up the neural architecture necessary for averageness to influence perceptions of attractiveness with its normal potency.
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