Facial first impressions and partner preference models: Comparable or distinct underlying structures?

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Abstract

Given the frequency of relationships nowadays initiated online, where impressions from face photographs may influence relationship initiation, it is important to understand how facial first impressions might be used in such contexts. We therefore examined the applicability of a leading model of verbally expressed partner preferences to impressions derived from real face images and investigated how the factor structure of first impressions based on potential partner preference-related traits might relate to a more general model of facial first impressions. Participants rated 1,000 everyday face photographs on 12 traits selected to represent (Fletcher, et al. 1999, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 72) verbal model of partner preferences. Facial trait judgements showed an underlying structure that largely paralleled the tripartite structure of Fletcher et al.'s verbal preference model, regardless of either face gender or participant gender. Furthermore, there was close correspondence between the verbal partner preference model and a more general tripartite model of facial first impressions derived from a different literature (Sutherland et al., 2013, Cognition, 127, 105), suggesting an underlying correspondence between verbal conceptual models of romantic preferences and more general models of facial first impressions.

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