Symmetry, attractiveness and sexual selection

Gillian Rhodes and Leigh W. Simmons

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Symmetry, attractiveness and sexual selection

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  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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This article considers whether a human preference for symmetry is an adaptation for mate choice. If it is, then symmetry should be attractive and it should signal mate quality. The article begins with a brief introduction to sexual selection and its proposed relation to fluctuating asymmetry (FA), highlighting some important methodological issues about the measurement of symmetry. The article then considers whether symmetry is attractive to humans, using meta-analyses to determine the strength of preferences for symmetric faces and bodies and to examine the effects of potential moderator variables. It is apparent from this review that FA has not always been measured appropriately. Therefore, the article presents some new data on the relationship between human FA and mate choice to illustrate some of the appropriate steps required for discussion. It then considers whether human symmetry honestly signals mate quality and reproduction.

Keywords: human; preference; symmetry; adaptation; mate choice; sexual selection; fluctuating asymmetry; mate quality; reproduction

Article.  15065 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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