- NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- A beautiful woman's face is like chocolate, cash or cocaine to a young
man's brain, according to Harvard University researchers.
- Their brain-imaging study revealed that while young
males are indeed capable of finding beauty in another man's face, only
a lovely female visage can set off the "reward centers" in their
- When men in the study were shown pictures of various
faces, only the female faces deemed beautiful triggered activity in brain
regions previously associated with food, drugs and money, according to
findings published in the November 8th issue of Neuron.
- The unique effect of the comely female face occurred
despite the fact that the men also rated some male faces as
- "It looks like there can be a difference between
what the brain 'likes,' an image that is judged to be attractive, and what
the brain 'wants,' something that is regarded as a reward in and of
study author Dr. Hans Breiter, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston,
said in a statement.
- In their experiments, the researchers first asked a group
of men to rate how attractive they found the faces--which, unbeknownst
to the participants, had already been placed into the categories
- The men's ratings, it turned out, fell in line with the
categories, and attractive male faces garnered ratings similar to
- But in the next phase of the study, men in another group
were allowed to control how long they viewed a particular face by pressing
a key. Breiter's team found that they "expended effort" to see
the beautiful female faces for a longer time, but for all other faces they
tried only to "make the faces disappear faster."
- Finally, in a third group of men studied with brain
known as functional MRI, the investigators found that only the attractive
female faces set off the brain's "reward circuitry."
- "It's particularly interesting that the attractive
male faces actually produced what could be considered an aversion response,
even though they had been recognized as attractive," Breiter
- His co-author, Dr. Nancy Etcoff, noted that this research
echoes previous work suggesting the human perception of beauty may be
- "While we know that experience, learning and
idiosyncrasies all have an impact on attraction between particular
these results show that this basic reward response is deeply seated in
human nature," she said in a statement.
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