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Correlates of Non-Clinical Facial Asymmetry and Facial Sexual Dimorphism in a Sub-Saharan African Population

Yahaya, AI; (2016) Correlates of Non-Clinical Facial Asymmetry and Facial Sexual Dimorphism in a Sub-Saharan African Population. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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A substantial body of literature has reported on correlates of facial symmetry and facial masculinity/femininity including the role these two traits play in human mate choice. However, major gaps persist, with nearly all data originating from Western industrialised populations, and results remaining largely equivocal when compared across studies. This thesis has two parts: the 1st part sets out to explore if human variation in measures of socioeconomic and health status is reflected in variation in facial asymmetry as a measure of developmental stability, or reflected in variation in facial masculinity/femininity as a measure of facial sexual dimorphism. The faces of 426 participants (215 males, 211 females) from the Hausa ethnic group of northern Nigeria were scanned using a 3D surface laser scanner. This population could potentially provide greater variation in developmental and other environmental factors than studies based on Western industrialised populations. Facial asymmetry and masculinity data were generated from the resulting virtual 3D models, individual biometric data were recorded, and socioeconomic and past medical history data were acquired through questionnaires. For the 2nd part of the thesis, 179 raters (98 males, 81 females) were recruited in order to determine their perceptions and judgements of standardised facial images with different levels of asymmetry and masculinity/femininity using questionnaires. Data were analysed using bivariate and multivariate methods. Significant correlates of whole face asymmetry included age, body height, whole face surface area (WFSA), education and diastolic blood pressure (BP). Significant correlates of asymmetry in the eye region alone included weight, sex, body mass index (BMI), and diastolic BP. Significant correlates of facial masculinity/femininity included body height, number of siblings, income, and total disease loads (TOTDX) in females, and WFSA, occupation and TOTDX in males. In the 2nd part of the study, individuals with higher facial symmetry and facial femininity were perceived as more attractive, more suitable as marriage partners and more caring, whereas less symmetrical and more masculine individuals were perceived as more aggressive. Although the amount of variation explained by statistically significant correlates was routinely low, the results of this study are consistent with an evolutionary psychological perspec¬tive on the link between physical attractiveness, health and environment. The study can also conclusively assert that facial symmetry or masculinity preferences were not just dependent on single, but rather on multiple facial features; thus the study supports that physical attractiveness is not just an arbitrary social construct, but at least in part a cue to general health and related to environmental context.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Correlates of Non-Clinical Facial Asymmetry and Facial Sexual Dimorphism in a Sub-Saharan African Population
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472120
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