A healthy appearance is linked to important behavioural outcomes. Here we investigated whether positive facial affect is a cue for perceived health. In study one, two groups of participants rated the perceived health or perceived happiness of a large set of faces with neutral expressions. Perceived happiness predicted perceived health, as did anthropometric measures of expression. In a second experimental study, we collected ratings of perceived health for a wide age range of target faces with either neutral or smiling expressions. Smiling faces were rated as being much healthier looking than neutral faces, confirming that facial expression plays a role in the perception of health. A third study investigating attractiveness as a possible mediator found that expression still had a significant direct effect on perceived health, after accounting for attractiveness. Together, these studies systematically show that facial affect plays a critical role in shaping our perceptions of health in others.
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Jones, Alex.L., Carlota Batres, Aurélie Porcheron, Jennider Sweda, Frédérique Morizot, and Richard Russell. "Positive Facial Affect Looks Healthy." Visual Cognition 26 (2017): 1-12.
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