Feel Good When Looking at Pretty Faces? It's Your Brain, Rewarding You

Who hasn't been there?  We see a pretty -- or handsome -- face and we can't look away.  The reason is pretty obvious.  But there's a new one that may take your breath away.

It's our brain rewarding us for looking.

A quick glimpse of a face provides us with rich information about the person in front of us. Are we acquainted? Man or woman? Happy or angry? Attractive?

Research has shown that our visual system is able to direct attention to the most important information in a face. A new study suggests that evolution has made us experts on faces, according to newswise.com.

“We are very curious about others’ faces, we read stories in them and evaluate their aesthetic value,” says Olga Chelnokova, writing for her Ph.D thesis at the department of psychology, University of Oslo.

Together with colleagues from another research group, she revealed that the brain reward system – a cluster of regions deep in our brain – is involved in our evaluation of other people’s attractiveness.

“The reward system is involved in generating the experience of pleasure when, for instance, we enjoy tasty food or happen to win a lottery. It turns out that the same system is also engaged in creating the feelings of pleasure when we look at a pretty face,” she says.

In the study, scientists let participants view images of faces pre-rated as most, intermediate, or less attractive. This was done after participants received a small dose of morphine, a drug that stimulates the reward system.

“Participants rated the most attractive faces as even more attractive, and were willing to do more presses on button that let them look at the picture for a longer time. They also spent more time looking at the eyes of the people in the pictures. Importantly, we observed the opposite behaviors when we blocked the reward system with another drug, such that, for instance, our participants gave lower ratings to the most attractive faces,” explains Chelnokova.

The researchers saw no effect from the drugs when participants viewed images of intermediate or less attractive faces.

So what do we know now we didn't know before?
"Previous research has established links between facial attractiveness and several factors important for the evolutionary propagation of our species, such as health and good reproductive potential. We can speculate that there is an evolutionary reason behind our brain enjoying to look and wanting to look more at an attractive face,” says Chelnokova. 




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