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Facial fluctuating asymmetry is not associated with childhood ill-health in a large British cohort study

Pound, Nicholas, Lawson, David W., Toma, Arshed M., Richmond, Stephen, Zhurov, Alexei and Penton-Voak, Ian S. 2014. Facial fluctuating asymmetry is not associated with childhood ill-health in a large British cohort study. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281 (1792) , 20141639. 10.1098/rspb.2014.1639

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Abstract

The idea that symmetry in facial traits is associated with attractiveness because it reliably indicates good physiological health, particularly to potential sexual partners, has generated an extensive literature on the evolution of human mate choice. However, large-scale tests of this hypothesis using direct or longitudinal assessments of physiological health are lacking. Here, we investigate relationships between facial fluctuating asymmetry (FA) and detailed individual health histories in a sample (n = 4732) derived from a large longitudinal study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) in South West England. Facial FA was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis of facial landmark configurations derived from three-dimensional facial scans taken at 15 years of age. Facial FA was not associated with longitudinal measures of childhood health. However, there was a very small negative association between facial FA and IQ that remained significant after correcting for a positive allometric relationship between FA and face size. Overall, this study does not support the idea that facial symmetry acts as a reliable cue to physiological health. Consequently, if preferences for facial symmetry do represent an evolved adaptation, then they probably function not to provide marginal fitness benefits by choosing between relatively healthy individuals on the basis of small differences in FA, but rather evolved to motivate avoidance of markers of substantial developmental disturbance and significant pathology.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Dentistry
Subjects: R Medicine > RK Dentistry
Uncontrolled Keywords: ALSPAC; childhood health; developmental stability; facial asymmetry; fluctuating asymmetry; IQ.
Publisher: Royal Society
ISSN: 0962-8452
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 22 July 2014
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2018 21:11
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/63362

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