Evidence for adaptive design in human gaze preference

Claire Anne Conway, Benedict Christopher Jones, L. M. DeBruine, A. C. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Many studies have investigated the physical cues that influence face preferences. By contrast, relatively few studies have investigated the effects of facial cues to the direction and valence of others' social interest (i.e. gaze direction and facial expressions) on face preferences. Here we found that participants demonstrated stronger preferences for direct gaze when judging the attractiveness of happy faces than that of disgusted faces, and that this effect of expression on the strength of attraction to direct gaze was particularly pronounced for judgements of opposite-sex faces (study 1). By contrast, no such opposite-sex bias in preferences for direct gaze was observed when participants judged the same faces for likeability (study 2). Collectively, these findings for a context-sensitive opposite-sex bias in preferences for perceiver-directed smiles, but not perceiver-directed disgust, suggest gaze preference functions, at least in part, to facilitate efficient allocation of mating effort, and evince adaptive design in the perceptual mechanisms that underpin face preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1630
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • gaze direction
  • facial expression
  • facial attractiveness
  • mate preference
  • attractiveness judgements
  • facial resemblance
  • sexual dimorphism
  • menstrual-cycle
  • faces
  • perception
  • symmetry
  • context

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