Middle temporal gyrus encodes individual differences in perceived facial attractiveness

Oshin Vartanian, Vinod Goel, Elaine Lam, Maryanne Fisher, Josipa Granic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the far-reaching implications of facial attractiveness for human behavior, its neural correlates have been the focus of much recent interest. However, whereas the focus of previous studies has been on highlighting a common network that underlies attractiveness judgments for all participants, we were also interested in examining individual differences in perceived facial attractiveness. We scanned 29 participants with functional MRI as they evaluated the attractiveness of faces. Activation in left anterior frontal cortex and right middle occipital gyrus covaried as a function of attractiveness ratings, which we attribute to making evaluative judgments involving the rewarding properties of faces. In addition, comparing participants who on average gave higher versus lower ratings to faces revealed activation in right middle temporal gyrus exclusively. We suggest that the activation in middle temporal gyrus reflects an aspect of individual differences in perceived facial attractiveness, possibly driven by the convergence of information from a variety of sources that extend beyond the domain of faces exclusively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-47
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Attractiveness
  • Beauty
  • Faces
  • Mate selection
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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