How parents affect our choice of partner

Thursday 31 January 2002

University of St Andrews psychologists have revealed that parents can affect our choice of partner in more ways than one …. by how they look.

Freud speculated that experience of parents influences who we are attracted to in later life. Using computer graphics to manipulate age cues such as lines and wrinkles, Professor Dave Perrett and his colleagues have examined how attraction to faces relates to parental age.

The team, based in the School of Psychology, discovered that women born to older parents (over 30) were less impressed by youth and more positive to age cues in male faces than women with young parents, while men with older mothers are more likely to settle down with older women. The study implies that who we find attractive is determined in part by our experience of the way our parents look.

The study was conducted by Professor Perrett, Dr Anthony Little, Dr Bernard Tiddeman and Michael Burt, together with experts from the Universities of Stirling, Dr Ian Penton-Voak, and Liverpool, Dr Louise Barrett.

PICTURE CAPTION: Women born to older parents care less about lines and wrinkles in their men. Adding ‘lines and wrinkles’ in the images (the textured images below) ages the faces. Daughters of young fathers found the ‘lines and wrinkles’ unattractive but daughters of older fathers were not affected by them. The research suggests that facial attraction is influenced by our parents. Dr Perrett and his team are now investigating the way the early family environment could mediate this effect. Readers can participate in new facial attractiveness experiments, and can see how faces (even their own) change with age at the web address:


NOTE TO EDITORS – For more information, please contact Professor Dave Perrett direct on 01334 463044. Full research paper available from Claire Grainger – contact details below.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- Ref: faces- 2002/standrews/chg/31jan2002

Category Research

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