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Journal Article

Static and dynamic facial images cue similar attractiveness judgements

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Roberts, S. C., Saxton, T. K., Murray, A. K., Burriss, R. P., Rowland, H. M., & Little, A. C. (2009). Static and dynamic facial images cue similar attractiveness judgements. Ethology, 115(6), 588-595. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2009.01640.x.

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Approaches to the study of human mate preferences commonly involve judgements of facial photographs and assume that these judgements provide a reasonable reflection of how individuals would be perceived in real encounters. However, three recent studies have each reported non-significant correlations between judgements using photos (static images) and those using videos (dynamic images). These results have led previous authors to conclude that static and dynamic faces are judged according to different evaluative standards and that this may call into question the validity of findings from experiments using static images. However, the extent of the discrepancy in judgements between image formats remains unknown, and may be influenced by different experimental designs. Here, we tested the effects of several experimental design factors on the strength of correlations between image presentation formats. Using both male and female targets, we compared observed static-dynamic judgement correlations when (1) judgements were made by the same or different raters, or (2) by raters of the same- or opposite-sex to the targets, and (3) when dynamic stimuli were collected under different contextual scenarios. For (1) and (2), we also measured correlations when order of presentation of static and dynamic stimuli was alternated. Our results suggest that each design feature has independent effects on the strength of static-dynamic correlations. Correlations were stronger when static and dynamic stimuli were rated by the same raters. They were weakest for judgements of males by females, when based on seeing photos before videos. This interaction with sex is consistent with previous studies, indicating that females are especially responsive to male dynamic cues. However, in contrast to previous findings and in all cases, static-dynamic correlations were strongly and significantly positive, indicating that judgments based on static images provide an accurate representation of someone's attractiveness during prolonged encounters.