Update 7 PM GMT on April 23: Thanks for all of the interest & the questions (and the Gold). The conversation really went in a lot of directions & it was interesting to see it unfold.

I did most of this AMA in 20 hrs straight (like a lunatic) - so my wording was not always the best & there might be some unclear statements. I've tried to make some edits to clear things up more. In general, this topic is more complex than it might seem on the surface. We have many different kinds of preferences and even 100 studies measuring those preferences just scratches the surface. Also, there are rarely black & white answers in this field, though we can usually spot trends. Even since the AMA, I've argued about some of the questions with people I know who have done similar research. Plastic surgeons have huge disagreements over techniques and what is aesthetically pleasing too. So, all of this has to be taken in that context. There are no absolutes in this area because of subjectivity - though we can understand a great deal about the topic based on things that are repeatable in research studies (and thus, more likely to be objective).

TL;dr: Facial attractiveness has a lot of components like symmetry, sexual dimorphism, skin quality, facial ratios, "averageness" (how much your features represent the average in the population - like the average length nose), and a viewer's personal preference (which can make up a large % of the equation). So, it's complicated & sometimes contradictory, as research often can be. There are still a lot more questions than answers in the field. At least we know some of the major components - and this info is based on empirical research in psychology, literature from plastic surgeons, and a little bit of literature from art.

Comments: 3875 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

mute_vision1691 karma

Do you consider your own face attractive?

norcross12307 karma


Cznielsen1256 karma


spiraldroid38 karma

What if OP said yes?

norcross1222 karma

They'd all hate me bc I'm beautiful.

tompwnsn00bs949 karma

Is that a gut reaction, or a scientific conclusion?

norcross11633 karma

Well, that was just a quick reply at first (that now became the top question I ever answered...yay for that..) but I would say no based on external feedback and scientific analysis combined.

Also, I was also a very good looking kid - and then after puberty, I turned into something totally different...so that was jarring & the change in how I was treated was hard to miss. That being said, I'm not a monster...I'm a 5 or 6. As a kid, I was the popular one who was like a 9 or 10... not as an adult.

TheChemineau1634 karma

External feedback


norcross1615 karma

HA - i just died! (ETA Thanks for the RIPs)

fazzlbazz558 karma

That's some rough peer review.

PipBoy808530 karma

"Your first draft has been rejected because ugly"


theninth160 karma

Revise and resubmit your face.

norcross143 karma

lol (only funny to an academic)

xhfsk352 karma

Attractive children becoming unattractive adults.. Genes, why are you doing this to yourself? How does biology and evolution explain that?

RichmondCalifornia639 karma

Lets make up a reason.
Better food younger. Ugly war face as an adult.

norcross1381 karma

I literally laughed out loud at that...it was more than the mild LOL.

Sincerely, Warface

But yea - it's more important to be cute until you can sustain yourself.

MrTyphoon278 karma

We're going to need some proof. I mean you can't go around telling people you're unattractive and expect us to believe it.

norcross1261 karma

lol I'll email the mods.

PooTossingMonkey126 karma

Don't you have the knowledge to fix that?

norcross1413 karma

Yeah I have the knowledge to fix things in photoshop - but surgeons don't have the capacity to fix them in reality.

I'll post more about this later...since it went to the top... I might be able to find some pics that will interest people - but I don't want it to be a distraction. (i.e. I dont want to just talk about myself for the whole AMA)

tanjoodo61 karma

Well that must be hard.

apenguin11116 karma

He/She really did do it for science... :/

norcross1237 karma

Yep. (and I'm a he)

ennervated_scientist1330 karma

Do you ever pick people up by saying "You're beautiful/handsome, and I should know--I'm an expert"

norcross11934 karma

I never used it as a pickup line, but I've told people things like "you have a perfect face" or "your nose is textbook" or something (in the context of a much larger conversation...not out of nowhere)...but it freaks people out immensely. They get paranoid that I am staring at them and evaluating them...and that I am just very weird. I still don't see it as weird, btw. I just control myself better. Also, a lot of this stuff is from plastic surgery literature - the ev psych people don't really go into features in this way. Plastic surgeons get very specific - and there are "perfect noses" in textbooks, literally.

Big_Timber1544 karma

"Your face smells very symmetrical. Oh, and btw, nice immune system."

norcross11011 karma

Haha...wow you've been reading it all!

MetsaFirez907 karma

Why are cheekbones so attractive?

norcross11452 karma

Prominent cheekbones & other "extraordinary" features can be attractive for a few reasons based on evolutionary psychology.

First, there is a theory called "costly signaling"* that means that if you see someone with high, broad cheekbones (or any "extraordinary" feature), this means that their body had to go through all of this extra "expense" to build and support those cheekbones..and this person has more "reproductive fitness" (better genes). I don't know if it applies to cheekbones, but it's a theory that's fairly convincing for a number of our traits (and animal traits too)

Second, cheekbones support the eyes - so broad cheekbones and wide set eyes (on a man in particular) indicate that he is probably a better athlete / hunter than someone with sunken cheekbones and poorly supported eyes. The cheek bone (and orbital rim - which it is attached to) was also important in supporting the eye during injury - which is crucial for survival. Also, the cheek bones (in the front) surround a major nerve that comes out of the face - and stronger frontal cheek bones protect this nerve. This last part (the protection factor) - I think - is probably why they are so important.

Someone should do a study on female cheek bones and hormone levels and waist - hip ratio to see if these things correlate. My hypothesis is that you'd see some correlation, but the study has not been done.

Cheekbones have different levels of attractiveness in men and in women -and the ideal shape and size differ. In men, the "population average" cheekbone is the most attractive. In women, the "population average + slightly feminized" is the most attractive.

I hope that made sense, but ask a follow-up if it did not.

(*) The exact name of the theory is used in different ways - but this is how I first learned it.

jordy240727 karma

What's your most surprising discovery?

norcross11345 karma

The most surprising discovery to me (not by me - but in the field) is that a man's body odor (smelled by women) can reveal how attractive their faces and symmetrical their bodies are. This was done by making men wear no deodorant and plain t-shirts for 3 days while females came in to smell the odors & rate them. Some follow up studies added a few twists, I think (and I think ovulation plays a role here)...it's been a while since I followed this line of research.

I always assumed body odor had some role in things, given evolution - but the fact it would correlate to appearance to such an extent (especially with ovulating women as the participants who smelled the t-shirts) was surprising.

INTPandme689 karma

I've been fascinated by the research into how women choose genetically alike males as mates when they are pregnant or on hormonal birth control (ie body thinks they're pregnant) but genetically different men as mates when ovulating/not pregnant. And if women mate with a genetically similar partner they are more likely to cheat. It's that whole good provider vs. good gene dynamic and it's interesting because it complicates that simplistic theory that males just want to spread genetic material and women just want a provider mate. There's biological machinations everywhere!

norcross11206 karma

I can elaborate on what you brought up or clear it up a little. When women are ovulating, they like the masculine male faced men. When they are on birth control, the preference is wiped out (since having a period on birth control is not a result of ovulation, which some readers might not realize - TBH as a guy I had no idea how it all worked when i was younger). Also, when they are not ovulating, they like the less masculine faces more. People have theorized that the "mate strategy" of a women is to marry a "neutral faced" provider and then have sex with the masculine pool boy or repairman when she's ovulating. Masculine faced guys have better immune systems, but they are more aggressive and less faithful - so they are not great long term partners. The significance of this (since the 60s with so many women on birth control) may have altered our entire species in a direction that it previously was not headed in. Making the above comments that I did is seen as controversial, but it's just a theory put out there by evolutionary psychologists.


ETA Just to clarify this: There are no absolutes here. Women on the pill still have sex w/ masculine faced men all the time. It's just a subtle shift in preference that happens to some women from a large sample in a research study that was statistically significant. This doesn't mean ALL women on the pill flee from manly men. The pill is not a light switch that sends all women fleeing from these types of men. It has a subtle, measurable effect...not an absolute inescapable one.

Also, re: "hormonal BC mimics pregnancy" - it's not actually the case. To the extent that it mimics any endogenous process, it mimics the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle -- the feedback loop that leads to ovulation begins when progesterone levels fall at the end of the luteal phase, and hormonal BC sustains high levels of an artificial progesterone analog, preventing the sequence of events that leads to ovulation. But BC pills these days act through a LOT of other mechanisms, altering cervical mucus and preventing implantation -- so it really has nothing in common with pregnancy.

Women with very high image self esteem (i.e., they think they are hot) also like manly men - pill or not.

londoncalling123233 karma

I've read that hormone-altering birth control will change who the female is attracted to, and also how it potentially leads to a bad match. With the research you've done, what is your view on BC, or other hormone-changing medications? Also, is there anything else I should be aware of that changes biological chemistry, appearance, attraction, etc?

norcross1286 karma

Well, BC definitely changes facial preferences, no question (as a general, significant trend - not a black & white rule for all women)...So, it must be controlled in every study or it will screw up results. BC may have much larger implications for matches when a woman goes off BC and then suddenly her partner seems "off" somehow...just like you said. This is very hypothetical, though. If it were really a big problem, we should have better data on it since the pill has been around for a log time.

As far as "anything else" - hmm...there's not a ton of research on it - I'll think about it & edit if something pops up in my mind. I wouldn't be surprised if other drugs and chemicals have effects.

girlwriteswhat438 karma

I'm piecing together some things I've seen in documentaries and read all over the place over the last couple decades (so, unfortunately no sources):

1) Sense of smell plays a huge part in selecting genetically suitable mates. I've read that if you hit it off with someone like whoa and like damn, and then at the first kiss (the first time you get a really good whiff of them through all the scented products and our modern hygiene) and suddenly you're not feeling it anymore, it's entirely possible you are smelling that they're unsuitable and your hardwiring is telling you so.

2) When pregnant (and nursing), that is, when vulnerable, women's preference for smells shifts from preferring men who are genetically compatible to men who match the scents of her closest relatives. I suppose because, other than her mate, these are the men who have a vested genetic interest in helping and protecting her?

3) One marriage counsellor interviewed for an article said (paraphrasing), "one of the most common complaints women in my office seem to have is, 'I can't stand the way he smells.'"

4) Hormonal birth control mimics pregnancy.

Is it possible, or likely, that because of hormonal birth control, which most women are taking when dating and after marriage but before deciding to have children, that women have been unwittingly choosing long-term partners (and fathers for their children) who are bad genetic matches? That hormonal birth control is not just shifting the preferences of women from more masculine partners to less, but that it is leading them to choose partners who are genetically similar to them--as similar as brothers, cousins, fathers?

If this is the case, is it possible, or even likely, that this trend may be partly responsible for recent increases in several disorders that have a heritable component? Things like allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, etc?

In other words, is it possible that we are seriously fucking things up for ourselves, gene pool-wise?

norcross1118 karma

That's an interesting hypothesis for sure... There are definitely matches otherwise would not happen.

Also, re: "hormonal BC mimics pregnancy" - it's not actually the case. To the extent that it mimics any endogenous process, it mimics the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle -- the feedback loop that leads to ovulation begins when progesterone levels fall at the end of the luteal phase, and hormonal BC sustains high levels of an artificial progesterone analog, preventing the sequence of events that leads to ovulation. But BC pills these days act through a LOT of other mechanisms, altering cervical mucus and preventing implantation -- so it really has nothing in common with pregnancy.

SchauinslandBahnana98 karma

So... better(?) odor = more symmetrical or vice versa? Or how was the odor described?

norcross1237 karma

I think all the odors were "bad" - but they ranked them...and the ones they "liked" the most were correlated to men who were more symmetrical and they did the same for women (smelling men). The study was done a few times w/ different variations but this is the one I found just now: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10380676

pickelbear509 karma

How big of a factor would you say facial attractiveness is when compared to other factors?

norcross1765 karma

(Note: This was the first question i was asked and the "other factors" wasn't clear...if it was "face vs. body" or something like that...I'll just leave it as is, though it is not a great answer).

That is a hard question to answer because overall attractiveness is an amalgamation of many things that can range widely depending on who is evaluating a person. Depending on the culture, it can include things like family heritage, intellect, humor, facial attraction, body type, and a lot more.

I didn't really get into research beyond the face, but what I would say is that I think the answer to your question depends on a lot of things such as gender & the environment the person is in. For example, men and women prioritize different things when evaluating someone's overall attractiveness. Men rarely prioritize height, whereas women will prioritize this more frequently. So, facial attractiveness may be less important than height for some women (just as a random example - and of course there would be more factors here too). Also, some cultures prioritize facial attractiveness & sense of humor more than body (I could name one - but I'll leave the stereotypes out for now) - whereas others prioritize how well your body looks over everything else (these countries are also stereotyped often).

If you look at the rates of plastic surgery on the face vs. body - that is also an indicator. In Brazil, there is much more body work done per capita (lipo, breast implants, butt implants). In colder climates, people get more face work done (nose jobs, face lifts, botox, etc). Does that mean it's actually more important in attraction? Maybe - people's preferences can shift based on the environment they are raised in (priorities shift too, to suit the environment from a evolutionary standpoint). It's hard to know if someone moved from a warm climate to a cold - if they would suddenly change their criteria for what they find attractive.

blankname21317 karma

Isn't there also some effect where the longer you see someone the more attractive (or less ugly) they appear to you? I can't remember what it is called, but if this is the case then you could change the importance level of facial attractiveness based on the amount of time spent with a person.

If you are speed dating then you might be done, but if you are in a working environment then you might go up a notch or two.

Edit - Thanks to repliers it is called the Mere-exposure effect

Chilis1530 karma

It's called the mere-exposure effect. The more frequently you're exposed to something the more you "like" it. It works for faces and it's why we like songs more when we've heard them more often.

It's also one reason why we think we look better in the mirror than in photographs. Others see us as we are in photos and we are used to seeing ourselves as we are in the mirror. It's why people sometimes don't like their photographs. Interestingly a study showed that people considered photographs of friends to be more attractive than mirror images of them because they are more used to seeing them the right way round.

norcross1176 karma

yep - thank u! My brain is hurting after answering so many questions! (It's fun though - don't worry)

Phlexonance123 karma


norcross1156 karma

There's an age old interaction between nature and nurture (nurture being "climate" here) that can be kind of complex. Did climate affect preference for certain body types or faces - or did this preference exist independent of climate? It's probably some of both. For example, what happens when someone from a warm climate moves to a cold climate? Do they still look at bodies in the same way? (I think they do) Do they have a different appreciation of facial features? (probably not - at least not right away) So... that's sort of where I was going with that. It's hard to know for sure bc nobody has done a controlled study on it.

Pantherpants349 karma

Can I PM you a picture of my face and you tell me some stuff about it?

norcross1546 karma

Sure - but it might take me a while... also - if you can ask specific questions & tell me how much freedom I have to criticize you, it will help much more. I used to do it for plastic surgery patients, and they wanted VERY heavy criticism. The average person might feel ripped to shreds by this, though.

junkytrunks410 karma


norcross1731 karma

Thanks for posting a pic like that...I mean, historical good looking woman (so it's much easier doing this "in public" without sounding like an ass) Here's what I'd say if she was one of the people who emailed me for a plastic surgery consult...

Well, first, the picture isn't great quality - so I can't see what I am used to seeing - but that points to the importance of ratios (even in an old somewhat blurry pic, you can see she has the right midface ratio - I'll get to it in the end). First, you can see that her eyes are wide set and forward set (relatively large compared to other features). She has hooded eyes (the upper lid appears covered by skin below the brow), which I think are attractive but this is debated sometimes. They are sometimes associated w/ age but sometimes associated with being more attractive. I think they are attractive. Her nose appears in proportion to the rest of her face - narrow, defined.

One major plus on her is the distance between her nose and upper lip. It is tiny. This is an attractive feature. She has thin-ish lips but that doesn't detract from her face at all. It fits everything else. (This is what people with thin lips don't understand who have fillers - they blow up their lips and it then it makes them look insane because it doesn't fit their face)

Her cheekbones have the classic ogee curve from the side associated with female beauty (not male).. They are very strong, and her undereye area is supported by strong structures as well (orbital rim, muscle, and fat). She does not have a sunken midface or any convexity (as far as I can tell from the front) - her cheek bones are strong laterally (on the side) and in front (below the eye). There is no sagging of the eyes or negative tilt of the canthus (lids)...the eyes tilt up slightly at the outer corners which is good.

Her chin is tapered at the bottom of her face, which is feminine. It is slightly receded, again which is feminine but might be problematic if it is to receded (I can't tell from this view). It is not too long or too wide - though I would need to see a picture from the side to see if it is too recessed (it might be). The chin connects to a slightly expanded jawline, with tight skin. The jaw isn't too wide or masculine (it is not parallel with the cheek bones like the ideal male face)...but it is also not tapered so she has an inverted triangle face. She has a nice, defined jawline.

Her temples seem uneven - on the left, it appears hollow but on the right it appears full. Full temples are more attractive - this may be an issue of where her hair is and the age of the photo. Also, her prominent cheek bones almost make the temples look indented when they are really in the right place, probably (again, a clearer pic would help).

From MY view, her forehead is too tall (going by the facial thirds rule) - but this might be due to the way her hair is pulled back and the blurriness around where her eyebrows are. I might be seeing it differently than someone else.

Her midface appears to have a ratio of 1.1 which is basically the ideal (and most important ratio on the face). If you measure the distance between her eyes, and the distance between the top of her nose to the middle of her lips & divide this number, you get 1.1. So, she has a compact midface which is a very important feature for facial attractiveness.

If she had to fix one thing, she'd need filler in the left temple area.

Ideally, i'd like to see her from the side too - and 1 pic from a 3/4 (oblique) angle...plus one smiling. But, that should give you an idea of how I analyze. If she was unattractive, you'd have everyone on this board hating me...I've done it before - sometimes people get very upset.

real-rainicorn73 karma

I got 1.03 (super rough) I'M ALMOST ATTRACTIVE

norcross195 karma

1.03 is better than 1.1...smaller is better.

Shaqueta21 karma

What about too small, like in the .83 area?

norcross149 karma

you might have measured wrong or u are very young.

sass198798 karma

You keep saying criticism might be very harsh. Do you have an example where you analyzed a face completely candidly? I want to know how bad it can get.

norcross1170 karma

I just did one above - the woman from the historical pic. It's not brutal bc she's pretty - but it can get brutal when you tell someone they have certain features responsible for their lack of attractiveness that cannot be changed. I did this on my own face - and I wasn't happy with myself...I'm still not.

The thing is - I have been answering questions for a few hrs straight and I haven't been able to do a full analysis until now...a good one takes about 30 min & I usually move things around in photoshop to confirm my thoughts... so that was a quick 10-15 minute one of someone pretty - so i didn't have to couch everything.

thrillreefer315 karma

My friends had a debate years ago about whether attractiveness is a logarithmic scale, rather than a linear one. So a '7' is several times more attractive than a '6' etc. I think this makes sense due to likely more rarity of increasingly attractive faces. Is there any data to back this up? Also, how is facial attractiveness 'scored' academically?


norcross115 karma

We usually use a 1-6 or 1-10 scale for a few reasons - it's easy for the study participant to use the scale, it's a standard method that will be accepted by the scientific community (peer review), and the numbers are easy to perform analyses on (which can get very complex if you have a lot of variables). Using a log scale would be a nightmare (for me) - I have never had a dependent variable be logarithmic. Your point is interesting, but I am not sure it would hold true for a random sample. I think the research supports more of a bell curve than a log curve.

Maybe a 100 point scale would work better, but I generally try to avoid the numbers and just show participants words like "strongly attracted" or "not attracted"...I can always test out methods with software if the data is not normal (not a bell curve).

I can give u an example of how numbers are used...I was determining the importance of a certain trait in my last study, so I randomized the presentation of the faces - but I put the faces side by side and said "which do you like more" - and they could say "left face much more, left face a somewhat more, left face a little more...or right face a little more..etc..." so each pair scored from -3 to +3... with +3 meaning they really liked the trait. So, this is not logarithmic...and it's not an "attractiveness rating" but the numbers used in the study are a product of the research question.

snoughboarder312 karma

How is skin quality more important than you ever thought?

norcross1499 karma

I thought it maybe mattered 5% - but studies show it matters more than that (and the size of the makeup and skincare industry shows this too - people don't know the evolutionary side, but they instinctively want to improve their skin) - and it is correlated to a few health variables. When we do studies, we have to control for it...meaning, we have to "average out" everyone's skin color and take out any moles, blemishes, and dark under-eye shadows or that will affect the results of what we're really trying to study. If you don't control for skin quality, you end up seeing effects of skin quality that are not what I thought they would be.

ETA - everyone is asking about moles... it's hard to find scientific evidence for them being bad - from a quick search right now. I think, in experiments, they have to be controlled (removed) or you'll end up worrying IF they had an effect - but the size of the effect may not be that big for just a few moles. Age spots / sun spots are not attractive. Freckles don't matter - some people love them, some hate them. If you have a 5mm raised mole on your face w/ a hair growing out of it, you probably already know the answer. If you have a cindy crawford mole, it probably is not a big deal.

snoughboarder132 karma

Huh, that's actually really interesting, have you noticed if the percentage that skin quality matters increases or decreases in importance based on the other levels of attractiveness in an individual? Or is more of a universal importance?

norcross1260 karma

Good question - I don't know for sure, but it might follow the classic rule though that if someone is extremely attractive - an "exception" isn't going to hurt them much Heidi Klum with a zit will not change her attractiveness...but, if someone is not in that 10/10 range - then skin quality probably plays a bigger role.

Also, I am skeptical that someone who is quite unattractive (but has flawless skin) will be perceived as attractive...so I think it's an "add on" for people in the 5/10-9/10 range...not a big determinant.

Atari_Historian96 karma

So what is quality skin? Is there something more to it that smooth and featureless?

norcross1328 karma

basically this: http://imgur.com/wwpPJZt [woe -36,000 people viewed this... yikes, I should've made my reasoning for posting this more clear...]

The reason I posted this is because our society is becoming inundated with messages about what perfect skin is - and these are often impossible standards...so that was more of a commentary than an answer. I think high quality skin is smooth, has a glow, is even colored, age appropriate (not leathery at 30 from tanning, and not sagging to much), and has normal pores (not non-existent pores). Scars seem to be divisive... but overall I think they are not a positive factor. My grandmother had perfect skin at 90 - I never saw anything like it. It was like baby skin...at 90!! Far better than my skin. She never went in the sun, but she also apparently had good genes for skin. She hardly had wrinkles.

But the main point of good skin is that it shows hydration, good blood flow, lack of disease, physical resilience (limited scars), and maybe even strong immunity. These are things people had to worry about more 100-30,000 years ago more than today. Moles (historically) could have been cancer and abscesses could result in infection & indicate disease. Acne is more complicated bc of its somewhat complex causes.

bellethebum295 karma

Do you think someone can be attractive if they don't fit exactly within what the science says is best? have you ever thought someone was beautiful who didn't fit into what you have researched? edit: sorry for the poorly phrased question, I have been on reddit so long today I think I have turned my brain to goo

norcross1526 karma

Yeah, there are a lot of other factors that can influence things from personality to body. And, subjective perceptions of attractiveness are 30-40% of the equation - based on what I've seen as the error term in a regression equation (it could be subjective or just something we don't know yet). The same is true in the opposite direction. People w/ perfect facial features who are depressed (in static photos) may be perceived as less attractive.

poloisdank234 karma

What do most people view as the best eye color?

norcross1545 karma

Blue eyed men view blue eyed women as more attractive, but brown eyed men do not have this preference. It's odd - but that's what the research shows. (I am realizing, after answering 10+ questions already that there are no straightforward answers to most of your quesitons... everything has an exception or qualifier)


ETA: These studies are just averages - not absolutes...so of course blue eyed men might like brown eyed women, etc...the studies just find a trend or average and test for statistical significance. It means the blue eyed population is a little different from the brown eyed one - but certainly not 100%

spoktacus94 karma


norcross1182 karma

I am not aware of any published studies on this. I think the effect of eyelashes is related to their ability to make the eyes seem stronger - which has evolutionary / survival implications.

(To clarify - by "stronger" I meant that - it is that stuff is less likely to get into their eye and scratch their cornea, cause infection, blindness, and death from infection if the eyelash is in the way to prevent it.)

Also, they could matter because they may make women appear more feminine, which is attractive to men (whether they consciously recognize it or not)

decenthumanbeing202 karma

People often tell my I'm photogenic. Why do you think some people photograph better then others? I don't think any of my features are particularly impressive such as great cheekbones, big full lips or big eyes.

norcross1357 karma

That's a good question. It's a real issue too - in research, we have to take everyone's photo w/o any flash because it drastically alters how people look. People who have stronger facial bones and facial muscles are more photogenic usually when they are put into 2D from 3D. Also, a flash camera can't "wash them out". Also, if you have more angles in your face, you will be more photogenic (more attractive in 2D) than someone who has more of a flat, amorphous face. Wide set, forward set eyes are more photogenic than narrow, deep set (small) eyes. You might also have a short midface (distance between your eyes and lips) which is a huge help for photographers because the lens can exaggerate long faces.

Real_Name_Withheld195 karma

Can you speak to the positive correlation between attractiveness & intelligence?

norcross1248 karma

I think this work gives a good summary:


The relationship between the two is kind of complicated, and the research may sometimes seem contradictory. I'll come back to this if there are fewer Qs.

KingBearington27 karma

I'm really digging all of these studies posted to coincide with each claim made and answer given. I can safely say I'm learning a great deal more from this AMA than from most.

norcross126 karma

Wow thanks.... I appreciate it. For parts of this, I felt like a performing monkey and for other parts I felt like an idiot bc I didn't know answers to questions that seemed obvious (but they are really complex). I wasn't sure if the link posting was annoying or not..someone was like "I don't have time to read a bunch of abstrats." lol..I'm like - I'm the one answering like 400 questions... and I have to read the abstracts to be accurate.

onesunshine191 karma


norcross1509 karma

Are you thinking about "round vs oval vs square"? Those terms are generally not descriptive enough - but I think the best way to answer this is that people with short mid-faces are the most attractive. To determine this for yourself, measure the distance between your pupils. Then, measure the distance between the top of your nose (the midpoint of your eyes), and the middle of your lips. Then divide these two numbers (with the eye number on top and the vertical number on the bottom). The lower the number is, the more compact your midface is and the more attractive you would tend to be. If it is 0.8-1.2 that is good. Outside of that range, it's not so good...almost universally. Every other "face shape" question has a qualification.

For example, there is also some research into sex-dimorphic (sex typical) face shape. So, men with broad cheek bones and wide, square jaws tending to be more attractive than men without these features. However, women only consider this attractive when they are ovulating or if they have high self esteem about their own bodies. Men consider women attractive w/ the most feminized faces, though - and that's always been straightforward. A feminized face tends to have a compact midface like I described above + wide large eyes, large lips, and a tapered jaw.

Cheetles760 karma

I just realized how stupid I probably looked measuring my face with a ruler, sitting in front of my computer, because some guy on the internet said I could tell how attractive I was if I did.

norcross1427 karma

lol - well also... measure it on a photo - it's easier.

threegigs162 karma

Have you done studies on men with beards, and if so, does a beard help, hurt or 'it depends'. Which style(s) of beards are best, and can a beard hide otherwise negative aspects of a face's shape?

norcross189 karma

From research papers:

Male faces displaying a full beard were considered the most masculine, aggressive, socially mature, and older. Males with a light beard were considered the most dominant. Males with light stubble were considered to be the most attractive, light stubble was also preferred for both short- and long-term relationships. These findings are discussed in terms of age preferences and good-genes models.

Beards augment perceptions of men's age, social status, and aggressiveness, but not attractiveness.

The male beard is not obviously related to phenotypic quality and may have evolved through a process of runaway intersexual selection. (It doesn't indicate any kind of good genes, etc)

http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/3/481.short http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886908001748 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0162309595000682

I think the style would have to depend on the person. It could exaggerate existing asymmetry in some cases... or it could mask it. Also, these studies used uniform, relatively dense beards which say "secondary sexual characteristic" not patchy / scraggly beards.

INTPandme140 karma

My face is average at best but I've always had tons of male attention maybe because I have the "golden" hip to waist ratio of .7 or whatever. What's the research on how face vs. body attractiveness works together, have there been studies on how much importance men vs. women place on face vs. body and vice versa?

norcross1176 karma

If you have a 0.7 ratio that is going to have a big positive effect. Some people I know published on the relative effects of face and body - but their conclusion was sort of just a boring "it's both." Basically, the two combine to make 1 "score"... prior researchers thought that all face did was indicate age (and men like young women) and the waist hip ratio indicated fertility - which drove most of attraction. But, that isn't the case based on their paper. Also, I think this is the kind of thing that depends on who is looking at you. You can check out their paper here if you have library access. If not, you'll just see the abstract.:


dharmaandegg117 karma

What impact does hair have on facial attractiveness? (Particular interest: beards and how a face is framed by hairstyle.)

norcross155 karma

We always crop out hair in studies so it doesn't have an effect...it has a low correlation to facial attractiveness (around r = 0.3 in one study from the 70s which is a bit high - but still...better to control for it, unless u are studying it)

Lord_Petyr_Baelish111 karma

How important is voice as a factor in sexual attraction?

norcross188 karma

I don't study voice but here's someone who studies it a LOT:


phwak96 karma

What is the most "important" or prioritized among facial features for men? (ie. nose, chin, eyes, etc).

norcross1205 karma

By "for men" - do you mean, "ON a man?" or "TO men (viewing women)?" I'll just assume you mean ON a man's face. Personally, I think the length of the midface is the most important feature...though there is no paper that has determined the single most important feature (since we perceive faces as a whole anyway)... But I would say that having a short midface, combined with wide set, forward set eyes and a wide jaw. These traits are the perfect hunter / athlete signal for a variety of reasons based in evolutionary psychology.

You probably never heard of a short midface before, but to determine it - measure the distance between your pupils. Then, measure the distance between the top of your nose (the midpoint of your eyes), and the middle of your lips. Then divide these two numbers (with the vertical eye number on top and the horizontal number on the bottom-- sorry yes I stated this wrong before... ). The lower the number is, the more compact your midface is and the more attractive you would tend to be. If it is 0.8-1.2 that is good. Outside of that range, it's not so good...almost universally (think lilly tomlin or sarah jessica parker). Generally, the closer to 1 the better. So, I'd say that is the most important (even though it's not a "feature"), though other things matter.

This pic demonstrates:


ETA: I didn't intend for people to take this so far...it's just one component... I think it's one of the more important ones - but don't get that concerned with it...many other things contribute.

freeusa158 karma


INTPandme153 karma

Is there a connection between Teresa's Guidice's low forehead and crimes against my personal humanity?

norcross1211 karma

ROFL... omg - yes she retains some australopithecine genes, accounting for her behavior. It's not her fault.

norcross197 karma

It kinda depends on the rest of your face. That is supposed to be part of the "upper third" - but if it is more like the "upper half" then it's going to make you less attractive. Look up "facial thirds" and you can see the ideal location for the brow & forehead to be. Btw, this is often changed surgically w/ a brow lowering procedure.

jleonardbc48 karma

In your opinion, what is the purpose of duckface? Does it work?

norcross127 karma

I've never understood it honestly. It's bizarre - u probably have a better guess than me on why ppl do it.

TheReverendZ40 karma

So, I send you my picture and you'll tell me how ugly I am? Sounds like another great weekend...

norcross161 karma

Only if you will tell me how ugly I am in return.

Disguised_Contempt33 karma

How big is the window for certain features to be considered attractive?

For example, broad cheekbones are attractive, but how broad is too broad? Same with eyelashes, symmetry, etc. I guess there's no perfect answer and most of it is probably subjective.

norcross177 karma

If you take everyone in your population (wherever you are - white, indian, latino - etc...and average all of their features together, you will get an "ideal" face. The deviations from the ideal make the face less attractive for men. For women, the most attractive face is the "average" plus feminized changes (tapered jaw, large wide eyes, big lips, etc.)

The "window" is hard to describe...it depends how far you stray from the average.


Jasonresno4 karma

Just got some pro headshots done. Would love a rating/evaluation. Your field sounds fascinating.


norcross112 karma

Is there any specific kind of feedback that would be helpful? I used to do this for people who were considering plastic surgery, but I don't want to say things that you aren't asking to hear. I noticed on rateme that people just talk about hair and teeth and skin... but there types of things that I would comment on would go beyond that.