Face's Left Side More Attractive Than Its Right Side, Study Shows

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/22/2012 10:59 am Updated: 04/22/2012 2:52 pm

Which is your better side? New research shows that the left side of the human face is generally more appealing to others than the right side--which may help explain why portraitists tend to paint their subjects' left profiles.

For the study, published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, Wake Forest University psychology professor Dr. James Schirillo and his co-author, Kelsey Blackburn, asked 37 male and female college students to rate photos of 10 male and 10 female faces. The photos were presented as originally taken and in mirror image form, so that right cheeks appeared to be left cheeks, and vice versa, Dr. Schirillo told The Huffington Post in an email.

What happened? Photos showing the left sides of faces were rated more "pleasant" than those showing right sides--no matter whether the portraits were shown as taken originally or in mirror-reversed form. The researchers corroborated that finding by gauging the pupil size of the study participants' eyes. Research has shown that gazing at pleasant or interesting images causes an increase in pupil size, whereas gazing at unpleasant images causes pupils to constrict.

"Our results suggest that posers' left cheeks tend to exhibit a greater intensity of emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing," the researchers said in a written statement. "Our findings provide support for a number of concepts--the notions of lateralized emotion and right hemispheric dominance with the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the face during emotional expression."

It's a fascinating finding, but does the study yield a practical take-away message for people who want to look their best?

"Practically, people should turn slightly so that they show more of their left, than right, cheek when being photographed," Dr. Schirillo said in the email."Others will find these images more appealing than the reverse (more right cheek exposed)."

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