Sex appeal is all in a tilt of the head

By Marina Kamenev with AAP 24 November 2010
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Just a simple tilt of the head can make you look more attractive to a mate, say Australian researchers.

WHILE ANIMALS, SUCH AS peacocks and stags, often have elaborate appendages or colourful coverings to attract a mate, it seems that all it takes for humans to become more alluring is a tilt of the head.

A woman’s face is often judged to be more feminine and attractive if she tilts her face forward, according to new research, whereas a man needs to tilt his head backwards for the same effect.

Psychologists Dr Darren Burke from the University of Newcastle and his wife Dr Danielle Sulikowski from Macquarie University designed the study to see whether looking at faces from a different perspective – due to differences in height – had any affect on how people perceived attractiveness.

“The way we angle our faces affects our attractiveness to the opposite sex,” says Darren.

Enhancing attractiveness

Participants of the study were shown computer-generated, 3-D models of male and female faces, and asked to rate their attractiveness, masculinity, and femininity. The faces were displayed in five positions, ranging from fully tilted up to fully tilted down.

As men are typically taller than women and they view women’s faces from above, female faces were deemed more attractive when tilted forward, simulating this perspective.

The opposite was then true for men whose faces were judged more masculine and attractive when their heads were tilted backwards, simulating a view from below – as this angle made their jaws looked wider, enhancing the perception of high fertility.

Much is known already on the influence of feminine and masculine features on attractiveness. Research has previously shown that females who have fuller lips and higher cheekbones have higher levels of oestrogen, and are more fertile. Males who are more fertile have a high level of testosterone which is expressed with a wider jaw, and smaller eyes.

Mysteries of mateship

“It’s a sensible conclusion,” said Professor Rob Brooks the director of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney. “Cinematographers do it all the time. If you want to make someone look heroic, you shoot them from below, and I suppose women are more attracted to heroic looking men.”

Danielle said these findings offer some clues to help unravel “the mysteries of mateship rituals” in this century. “The next step is to determine if people use this effect in real-world mate-attraction scenarios,” she says.

The findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

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