Affective response to attractiveness as a function of categorical fit
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People use facial appearance to infer the social attributes of others. A primary indicator of facial attractiveness is prototypicality (the proximity of an object to its categorical central tendency); faces and objects closer to the central tendency are judged as more attractive. Perceptual fluency theory suggests that cognitive processing speed directly generates positive affect. This dissertation examined the relationships among attractiveness, prototypicality, and affective response in faces and non-face objects across adult and 8-year-old participants using a reaction time (RT) paradigm. RT predicted positive affect and disgust responses to facial stimuli. Of particular note are the series of complementary findings suggesting that reaction to unattractive faces may be both quantitatively (i.e., longer RT latencies) and qualitatively (i.e., judged to be less typical) different from high and medium attractive faces. These findings may help explain how appearance-based stereotypes are formed and maintained.