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Centre for Vision and Visual Cognition


Skin colour and texture – signals of health and mate quality

27th January 2012, 16:30, L47, Psychology Department, Mr Ross Whitehead (former Durham MSc student) & Miss Carmen Lefevre (former Durham UG student) , St Andrews University

A public seminar from the Centre for Vision and Visual Cognition.

The skin plays an important role in the perception of faces. Our recent research has found that skin colour and texture are highly

influential determinants of attractiveness, health and age perception from faces and may play an important role in mate choice. Skin colour is influenced by a number of lifestyle factors including diet and illness. For instance, we find robust between and within-subjects effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on skin yellowness, due to the impact of carotenoid pigments. Our perceptual experiments have shown that this colouration is perceived as healthy and attractive looking. We conclude that this cue may be an honest indicator of health, due to the role of carotenoids as systemic antioxidants. Skin colour and texture are sexually dimorphic which suggests that these cues may also be used in mate choice. A recent study in the perception lab has revealed that viewing skin patches (in the absence of any other facial cues) is sufficient for sex discrimination. Male skin is, on average darker, redder and yellower than female skin and skin texture, which can be defined as surface topography and colour

homogeneity, is associated with the perception of health, attractiveness and age and is likely an honest signal of fertility and youth in women. We will discuss these results and how texture can be measured in several colour and spatial frequency bands, allowing for precise differential quantification.

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