Believe it or not, our cheeks were not created equal in attractiveness or emotional expression.
People’s left cheeks are generally seen as more attractive than their right, a psychology study has found.
It may be because people tend to show more emotion with their left cheek than their right.
The reason could be down to how emotions are processed in the brain.
Broadly speaking, the right-hand-side of the brain is more involved in processing emotions…
…and it is the right-hand-side of the brain that controls the muscles on the left-hand-side of the body.
The study’s authors explain:
“Our results suggest that posers’ left cheeks tend to exhibit a greater intensity of emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing.
Our findings provide support for a number of concepts — the notions of lateralized emotion and right hemispheric dominance with the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the face during emotional expression.”
For the study, people viewed a series of male and female faces showing both left- and right-sided views.
People showed a consistent preference for the left-side views.
In fact, people’s pupils dilated more when they looked at the left-side of someone’s face.
This suggests they were more attracted and interested in the person when viewing the left-side of their face.
Perhaps this is why artists show a consistent preference for painting their subjects showing the left side.
The study’s authors write:
“One examination of 1,474 Western European portraits found that the majority of posers (~64 %) exposed their left cheeks while only ~33 % exposed their right cheeks.
More importantly, this leftward bias occurred more often in portraits of women than in portraits of men.”
So, now you know which cheek to present when the photographer says “Say cheese!”
The study was published in the journal Experimental Brain Research (Blackburn et al., 2012).
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
Woman image from Shutterstock