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Your left side is your best side, scientists find

April 22, 2012
Courtesy of Springer Science & Business Media
and World Science staff

Your best side may be your left cheek, ac­cord­ing to a new stu­dy.

The re­search, by Kel­sey Black­burn and James Schir­illo from Wake For­est Uni­vers­ity in North Car­o­li­na, finds that im­ages of the left side of the face are per­ceived and rat­ed as more pleas­ant than pic­tures of the right side. This may be be­cause we pre­s­ent emo­tion more in­tensely on the left side of our face, say Black­burn and Schir­illo, who pub­lish their re­sults in the jour­nal Ex­pe­ri­men­tal Brain Re­search.

Past studies sug­gest that the left side of the face is more in­tense and ac­tive dur­ing emo­tional ex­pres­sion—which may ex­plain why West­ern artists’ por­traits pre­dom­i­nantly pre­s­ent sub­jects’ left pro­file, Black­burn and Schir­illo said.

“Our re­sults sug­gest that posers’ left cheeks tend to ex­hib­it a great­er in­tens­ity of emo­tion, which ob­servers find more aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing,” they wrote. “Our find­ings pro­vide sup­port for a num­ber of con­cepts – the no­tions of lat­er­al­ized emo­tion and right hem­i­spher­ic [right half of the brain] dom­i­nance with the right side of the brain con­trol­ling the left side of the face dur­ing emo­tional ex­pres­sion.”

Par­ti­ci­pants were asked to rate the pleas­antness of both sides of male and female faces in black-and-white pho­tos. The re­search­ers pre­s­ented both orig­i­nal pho­tos and mirror-reversed im­ages, so that an orig­i­nal right-cheek im­age looked like a left-cheek im­age and vi­ce versa. The re­search­ers found a strong pref­er­ence for left-sided por­traits, re­gard­less of wheth­er the pic­tures were orig­i­nally tak­en of the left side, or mirror-reversed. The left side of the face was rat­ed as more aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing for both male and female posers.

These pref­er­ences were al­so con­firmed by mea­sure­ments of pu­pil size, a re­li­a­ble un­con­scious meas­ure­ment of in­ter­est, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors found. Pupils di­late in re­sponse to more in­ter­esting or pleas­ant stim­u­li, and con­strict when look­ing at un­pleas­ant im­ages, they not­ed.


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Your best side may be your left cheek, according to a new study. The research, by Kelsey Blackburn and James Schirillo from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, finds that images of the left side of the face are perceived and rated as more pleasant than pictures of the right side. This may be because we present emotion more intensely on the left side of our face, say Blackburn and Schirillo, who publish their results in the journal Experimental Brain Research. Research suggests that the left side of the face is more intense and active during emotional expression—which may be why Western artists’ portraits predominantly present subjects’ left profile, Blackburn and Schirillo said. “Our results suggest that posers’ left cheeks tend to exhibit a greater intensity of emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing,” they wrote. “Our findings provide support for a number of concepts – the notions of lateralized emotion and right hemispheric [right half of the brain] dominance with the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the face during emotional expression.” Participants were asked to rate the pleasantness of both sides of male and female faces on black-and-white photos. The researchers presented both original photos and mirror-reversed images, so that an original right-cheek image looked like a left-cheek image and vice versa. The researchers found a strong preference for left-sided portraits, regardless of whether the pictures were originally taken of the left side, or mirror-reversed. The left side of the face was rated as more aesthetically pleasing for both male and female posers. These preferences were also confirmed by measurements of pupil size, a reliable unconscious measurement of interest, the investigators found. Pupils dilate in response to more interesting stimuli – here more pleasant-looking faces, and constrict when looking at unpleasant images, they noted.