Impressions of health are integral to social interactions, yet poorly understood. A review of the literature reveals multiple facial characteristics that potentially act as cues to health judgements. The cues vary in their stability across time: structural shape cues including symmetry and sexual dimorphism alter slowly across the lifespan and have been found to have weak links to actual health, but show inconsistent effects on perceived health. Facial adiposity changes over a medium time course and is associated with both perceived and actual health. Skin colour alters over a short time and has strong effects on perceived health, yet links to health outcomes have barely been evaluated. Reviewing suggested an additional influence of demeanour as a perceptual cue to health. We, therefore, investigated the association of health judgements with multiple facial cues measured objectively from two-dimensional and three-dimensional facial images. We found evidence for independent contributions of face shape and skin colour cues to perceived health. Our empirical findings: (i) reinforce the role of skin yellowness; (ii) demonstrate the utility of global face shape measures of adiposity; and (iii) emphasize the role of affect in facial images with nominally neutral expression in impressions of health.
One contribution of 15 to a theme issue ‘Attending to and neglecting people’.
- Accepted December 28, 2015.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.