The human face is an elaborate communication tool that transmits a large variety of signals such as: identity, gender, ethnicity, age, emotional state, health, and more. Of particular importance is the tendency of human observers to infer social traits (e.g., attractiveness, dominance or trustworthiness) rapidly from faces which, in turn, can lead to a specific action from a wide spectrum of possibilities ranging from mating to violent clashes. Among the social trait signals that are transmitted by the face, the attractiveness signal is outstanding in its robustness against manipulation initiated by the transmitter or interference caused by the physical environment’s many aspects. Among these aspects are the robustness of attractiveness to manipulations caused by the physical environment (e.g., viewing distance) or manipulations made by the signaler (e.g., facial movements). To understand what makes a face attractive and the unique role that attractiveness plays as a communication signal, this chapter will use the universal framework of communication systems. Every communication system consists of three key elements: a transmitter, a receiver, and a communication channel. All these three components affect the semantic meaning of every message transmitted in the system and thus shape the outcome following the message reception.
Part of the book: Beauty