Poster E25, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Physical attraction to reliable, low variability nervous systems: Reaction time variability predicts attractiveness.
Richard Ramsey1, Emily Butler1, Chris Saville1, Rob Ward1; 1Bangor University, UK
The human face cues a range of important fitness information, which guides mate selection towards desirable others. Given humans' high investment in the central nervous system (CNS), cues to CNS function should be especially important in social selection. We tested if facial attractiveness preferences are sensitive to the reliability of human nervous system function. Several decades of research suggest an operational measure for CNS reliability is reaction time variability, which is measured by standard deviation of reaction times across trials. Across two experiments, we show that low reaction time variability is associated with facial attractiveness. Moreover, variability in performance made a unique contribution to attractiveness judgements above and beyond both physical health and sex-typicality judgements, which have previously been associated with perceptions of attractiveness. In a third experiment, we empirically estimated the distribution of attractiveness preferences expected by chance and show that the size and direction of our results in Experiments 1 and 2 are statistically unlikely without reference to reaction time variability. We conclude that an operating characteristic of the human nervous system, reliability of information processing, is signalled to others through facial appearance.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Person perception