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Vulnerability to disease is associated with a domain-specific preference for symmetrical faces relative to symmetrical non-face stimuli



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Expression of concern Volume 42, Issue 6, 798, Article first published online: 20 September 2012

Steven G. Young, Psychology Department, Tufts University, Medford MA, USA. E-mail:


Two experiments tested the hypothesis that the accessibility of disease concerns would be associated with a preference for faces high in symmetry, a cue to good health and pathogen resistance. Disease concerns (perceived vulnerability to disease) were measured as an individual difference in Experiment 1 and were situationally primed in Experiment 2. Across both studies, heightened disease sensitivity predicted a preference for symmetrical faces. Importantly, this increased preference for symmetrical faces when disease threats were salient did not generalize to non-face stimuli. These results suggest a domain-specific preference for symmetry in human faces, an adaptive response due to the ability of faces to signal resistance to infectious diseases in individuals and situations where disease is a salient threat. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.