Telegraph, November 7, 2007

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If you want to appear more attractive to the opposite sex, smile and look them straight in the eye, says new research.

In tests on hundreds of people, a direct smiling gaze from a “possible mate” was a “look of love” that made that person appear up to eight times more attractive. The finding has emerged from a survey using computer-manipulated faces, where a basic face had gaze and expression altered in a subtle way that was not immediately apparent to test subjects, conducted by a team at the Universities of Aberdeen and Stirling.

The research marks one of the first studies to see the effects of the direction of gaze on attractiveness. “When asked to think of examples of attractive facial characteristics, most people think of physical traits such as healthy-looking skin, symmetrical features or a strong jaw,” said Dr Ben Jones, who runs the Face Research Laboratory where the study was conducted. “We show that gaze direction can also be important for attraction,” he said.

In the study, happy wide-eyed faces, disgusted narrow eyed faces and variants in gaze direction were presented to 460 people, half men and half women. The results have been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences. Faces with direct gaze (that is, faces that are looking ‘at’ the viewer) were judged more attractive than faces with averted gaze (that is faces that were looking ‘away’ from the viewer), particularly when faces were both smiling.

In the study, happy wide-eyed faces, disgusted narrow eyed faces and variants in gaze direction were presented to 460 people, half men and half women. The results have been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences. Faces with direct gaze (that is, faces that are looking ‘at’ the viewer) were judged more attractive than faces with averted gaze (that is faces that were looking ‘away’ from the viewer), particularly when faces were both smiling.

The effect could be seen in people of the same sex but is particularly marked in people of the opposite sex to the viewer. “People prefer faces that appear to ‘like’ them, showing that attraction is not simply about physical beauty,” said coauthor Claire Conway.

Dr Jones speculates that the reason our brains are wired this way is so that we can invest time in wooing members of the opposite sex who seem the most receptive to our amorous advances.

“If you walk into a bar and an attractive member of the opposite sex is ignoring you, or smiling at the Brad Pitt at the end of the bar, you probably wouldnt offer to buy her a drink. But if you walk in, she sees you and her face lights up then you might,” he said, adding: “Don’t tell my wife I said that.” Dr Jones is married to a coauthor of the study, Dr Lisa DeBruine.

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