Facial resemblance and attractiveness: an experimental study in rural Indonesia

  • Saori Nojo
  • Yasuo Ihara
  • Hana Furusawa
  • Shigeru Akamatsu
  • Takafumi Ishida


Previous studies suggest that humans use facial characteristics as a cue of kinship in a context-dependent manner: a self-resembling face is preferred as a target of cooperation because cooperating with kin enhances inclusive fitness, but avoided as a mating partner because mating with kin increases the risk of inbreeding. Another line of evidence indicates that children internalize faces of their family members and later use them as a referent with which faces of others are compared. Using digital morphing techniques, we conduct an experiment in a village in Sumba, Indonesia, to investigate effects of facial self- or parent-resemblance on perceived attractiveness of opposite-sex faces in the context of a long-term or short-term relationship. Our results show that females prefer a male face not resembling themselves and males prefer a female face not resembling their mothers, both in the long-term context.

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