Facial Contrast Is a Cue for Perceiving Health From the Face

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How healthy someone appears has important social consequences. Yet the visual cues that determine perceived health remain poorly understood. Here we report evidence that facial contrast—the luminance and color contrast between internal facial features and the surrounding skin— is a cue for the perception of health from the face. Facial contrast was measured from a large sample of Caucasian female faces, and was found to predict ratings of perceived health. Most aspects of facial contrast were positively related to perceived health, meaning that faces with higher facial contrast appeared healthier. In 2 subsequent experiments, we manipulated facial contrast and found that participants perceived faces with increased facial contrast as appearing healthier than faces with decreased facial contrast. These results support the idea that facial contrast is a cue for perceived health. This finding adds to the growing knowledge about perceived health from the face, and helps to ground our understanding of perceived health in terms of lower-level perceptual features such as contrast.

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