Left side of face looks best, says study

Sofi Papamarko
Shine On
April 26, 2012

Thanks to science, there's one more reason to "turn the other cheek"…just as long as it happens to be your left one. When it comes to posing for photographs, researchers have found that the left side of your face is more universally appealing than the right.

In a study published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, authors Kelsey Blackburn and James Schirillo of Wake Forest University in North Carolina conclude that the left side of the human face is rated and perceived as more pleasant than the right side.

"Our results suggest that posers' left cheeks tend to exhibit a greater intensity of emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing," says the study's authors in a statement. "Our findings provide support for a number of concepts — the notions of lateralized emotion and right hemispheric dominance with the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the face during emotional expression."

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The researchers had the 37 study participants gaze upon and subsequently rate the pleasantness of 20 gray-scale images featuring both men and women. They found that photographs capturing the left side of faces were overwhelmingly more appealing to the study's participants.

This remained true after a bit of bait-and-switch trickery. The researchers also presented flipped mirror-image photographs, where the right-side of a face appeared to be a left-side portrait. Still, participants found the images of the left sides of faces (flipped or not) to be more pleasant to take in.

The survey answers were corroborated by pupil measurements. Pupils dilate when faced with an aesthetically pleasing or interesting visual, and the pupil sizes of the participants were also in strong favour of the left cheeked portraits. Any way you slice it, left is best.

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It does make some degree of sense. Barbra Streisand frequently goes to great lengths to ensure that she is primarily seen from her best angle — which she knows to be her left side. And Mariah Carey eventually decided that she's okay with being photographed on her left side. She was previously a big fan of her right-side.

Not to mention that the mysterious Mona Lisa's face is tilted just ever-so-slightly to the left. And millions upon millions of people sure do enjoy gazing at her each year.

So the next time you want to be captured on film in a flattering way, keep this study in mind and put your best face side forward.

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