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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Holger Wiese

Menzel, C., Hayn-Leichsenring, G.U., Langner, O., Wiese, H. & Redies, C. (2015). Fourier power spectrum characteristics of face photographs: attractiveness perception depends on low-level image properties. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122801.

Author(s) from Durham


We investigated whether low-level processed image properties that are shared by natural scenes and artworks – but not veridical face photographs – affect the perception of facial attractiveness and age. Specifically, we considered the slope of the radially averaged Fourier power spectrum in a log-log plot. This slope is a measure of the distribution of special frequency power in an image. Images of natural scenes and artworks possess – compared to face images – a relatively shallow slope (i.e., increased high spatial frequency power). Since aesthetic perception might be based on the efficient processing of images with natural scene statistics, we assumed that the perception of facial attractiveness might also be affected by these properties. We calculated Fourier slope and other beauty-associated measurements in face images and correlated them with ratings of attractiveness and age of the depicted persons (Study 1). We found that Fourier slope – in contrast to the other tested image properties – did not predict attractiveness ratings when we controlled for age. In Study 2A, we overlaid face images with random-phase patterns with different statistics. Patterns with a slope similar to those in natural scenes and artworks resulted in lower attractiveness and higher age ratings. In Studies 2B and 2C, we directly manipulated the Fourier slope of face images and found that images with shallower slopes were rated as more attractive. Additionally, attractiveness of unaltered faces was affected by the Fourier slope of a random-phase background (Study 3). Faces in front of backgrounds with statistics similar to natural scenes and faces were rated as more attractive. We conclude that facial attractiveness ratings are affected by specific image properties. An explanation might be the efficient coding hypothesis.