Simple faces are easier for the brain to process and store so we find them more attractive, new research suggests.
The study had men looking at pictures of women and ranking them.
Those ranked higher tended to have faces without distinguishing features.
The reason could be that the brain has a preference for looking at things which are easier to encode.
As the authors write:
“Sparseness was found [to be] positively correlated with attractiveness as rated by men and explained up to 17% of variance in attractiveness.[…]
Our results show that female faces which are rated the most attractive by men should be the most sparsely coded by the primary visual cortex of these men.”
“A century of research in empirical aesthetics has revealed preferences for certain forms and patterns that appear universal, being shared between societies in humans and between species.[…]
The best documented of these preferences are for symmetrical, averaged and prototypical forms, curved contours and scale-invariant patterns.[…] these preferred stimuli have in common to be efficiently coded by the perceptual system…”
In other words simple faces are literally easy on the eye and easy on the brain.
The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science (Renoult et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Pretty face image from Shutterstock