Beautiful people: Those with symmetrical features like Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman are more likely to be selfish by nature
Healthy: George Clooney and Kate Moss both have symmetrical attributes
Both Michelle Pfeiffer and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai are ranked among the most beautiful women in the world
Their beautiful facial features have made them the envy of men and women the world over.
But the likes of George Clooney and Kate Moss aren’t that perfect after all.
Beauty, it appears, really is only skin-deep.
According to new research those with symmetrical facial features – regarded by many as the more attractive – are significantly more selfish than the rest of us mere mortals.
Researchers found they were less likely to cooperate in pursuit of the greater good and more likely to feather their own nests.
As part of the study, due to be unveiled later this month, participants were given the option of being a ‘dove’ and cooperating with others for shared benefit, or taking on the role of a ‘hawk’.
As ‘hawks’ they had the chance to gain more if the other participant chose to be a ‘dove’.
Scientists then analysed their faces and discovered that those with more symmetrical facial features were more inclined to be hawks.
The team examined the facial features of 292 people at the age of 83 who took part in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921, a study that has followed the participants throughout their life.
They analysed 15 facial ‘landmarks’, including the positions of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears, and were able to compare the facial symmetry of participants.
Those with asymmetrical faces tended to be less healthy and more likely to have experienced deprived childhoods.
Factors such as a lack of nutrition, illness, exposure to cigarette smoke and pollution left their mark, the researchers concluded.
Even those who went from rags to riches could not escape the tell-tale signs.
Deep lines and weather-beaten skin were instant giveaways about their hard lives, they said.
'As people with symmetrical faces tend to be healthier and more attractive, they are also more self-sufficient and have less of an incentive to cooperate and seek help from others,’ the study found.
'Through natural selection over thousands of years, these characteristics continue to the present day.’
The study, published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, was compiled by Edinburgh University researchers and will be presented at a gathering of Nobel prize winners in Germany later this month.
Prof Ian Deary, from the department of psychology at the university's centre of cognitive ageing, said: ‘Symmetry in the face is thought to be a marker of what is called developmental stability: the body's ability to withstand environmental stressors (stress factors) and not be knocked off its developmental path.
'We wondered whether facial symmetry would faintly record either the stressors in early life, which we thought might be especially important, or the total accumulated effects of stressors.
'The results indicated that it is deprivation in early life that leaves some impression on the face.’
While there was a strong link between social class and facial symmetry in men, the connection in women was less clear.
Researchers are now planning to examine whether facial symmetry could also play a part in identifying those who might be at an increased risk of illness.
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