Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Beauty hinders attention switch in change detection : the role of facial attractiveness and distinctiveness

Chen, Wenfeng; Liu, Chang Hong; Nakabayashi, Kazuyo


Wenfeng Chen

Chang Hong Liu

Kazuyo Nakabayashi


Alex O. Holcombe


Background: Recent research has shown that the presence of a task-irrelevant attractive face can induce a transient diversion of attention from a perceptual task that requires covert deployment of attention to one of the two locations. However, it is not known whether this spontaneous appraisal for facial beauty also modulates attention in change detection among multiple locations, where a slower, and more controlled search process is simultaneously affected by the magnitude of a change and the facial distinctiveness. Using the flicker paradigm, this study examines how spontaneous appraisal for facial beauty affects the detection of identity change among multiple faces. Methodology/Principal Findings: Participants viewed a display consisting of two alternating frames of four faces separated by a blank frame. In half of the trials, one of the faces (target face) changed to a different person. The task of the participant was to indicate whether a change of face identity had occurred. The results showed that (1) observers were less efficient at detecting identity change among multiple attractive faces relative to unattractive faces when the target and distractor faces were not highly distinctive from one another; and (2) it is difficult to detect a change if the new face is similar to the old. Conclusions/Significance: The findings suggest that attractive faces may interfere with the attention-switch process in change detection. The results also show that attention in change detection was strongly modulated by physical similarity between the alternating faces. Although facial beauty is a powerful stimulus that has well-demonstrated priority, its influence on change detection is easily superseded by low-level image similarity. The visual system appears to take a different approach to facial beauty when a task requires resource-demanding feature comparisons. © 2012 Chen et al.


Chen, W., Liu, C. H., & Nakabayashi, K. (2012). Beauty hinders attention switch in change detection : the role of facial attractiveness and distinctiveness. PLoS ONE, 7(2), e32897.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Feb 29, 2012
Publication Date Feb 29, 2012
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages e32897
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences; General Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


Published article (156 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Wenfeng Chen, Chang Hong Liu and Kazuyo Nakabayashi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

You might also like

Downloadable Citations