People are attracted to increased yellowness in people’s skin, according to new research from the University of York. It is thought that the preference may be caused by dietary carotenoid-induced skin colour which poses a visual cue to good health.
Yellow flower picture from Shutterstock
To test what role carotenoid skin colour plays in attractiveness, researchers asked 65 Caucasian participants to rate faces which had been digitally manipulated to appear various shades ranging from pale to yellow. They discovered that increased carotenoid coloration significantly improved the perceived level of attractiveness in faces.
Carotenoids pigments are ingested through fruit and vegetable consumption and aid in the immune system. The results of the study therefore suggest that humans could be tuned to detect the health of others.
To test whether or not yellow is simply more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, the researchers also asked the participants to rate abstract scrambled images that were similarly coloured. In these tests, there was no marked preference one way or the other.
To further support their theory, the researchers claim that dark yellow hues similar to healthy high-carotenoid skin colour are often found to be unappealing in non-facial contexts due to their association with bodily excretion and rotten foods.
“Our results indicate that healthy skin colour is found attractive because it signals current condition, not because of a sensory bias towards yellow colours,” the authors conclude.
“These findings are consistent with a specific signalling system of current condition through skin coloration in humans and indicate that preferences are not caused by sensory biases in observers.”
We can’t help but wonder what this means for people with jaundice and liver disease.
It is all in the face: carotenoid skin coloration loses attractiveness outside the face [Royal Society journal]