Facts of life written on your face, study says
THE story of your life really is written on your face, according to new Scottish research.
The study has found it may be possible to learn about a person's childhood by looking at how symmetrical their face is.
Researchers looked at 15 different facial markers including the position of the ears, nose and mouth, and concluded those with asymmetric features tended to have more deprived childhoods than people with symmetrical faces.
Factors in early childhood, including illness, lack of nutrition, or exposure to cigarette smoke, could leave their mark.
Professor Ian Deary and colleagues from the department of psychology at the University of Edinburgh's centre of cognitive ageing, studied the features of 292 people aged 83 who took part in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921, which has followed the individuals throughout their lives.
Researchers compared the symmetry of the faces against detailed information about social status of the participants in their youth, including their parents' occupation or how crowded their home was.
Prof Deary said: "Symmetry in the face is thought to be a marker of what is called developmental stability - the body's ability to withstand (stress factors] and not be knocked off its developmental path.
We wondered whether facial symmetry would faintly record either the stressors in early life, which we thought might be especially important, or the total accumulated effects of stressors through the lifecourse. The results indicated that it is deprivation in early life that leaves some impression on the face. The association is not very strong, meaning that other things also affect facial symmetry too."
The study, published in the journal of Economics and Human Biology, also suggested facial symmetry could one day help identify people potentially at risk of disease, alongside medical markers.
Study co-author Professor Tim Bates said: "A small link from parental status to facial symmetry doesn't mean people are trapped by their circumstances. Far from it - as shown by the high levels of mobility in society, not just people like Gordon Ramsay, but to lesser degrees by millions of people."
Gordon Ramsay, for example, grew up on a council estate with an alcoholic and abusive father but has made millions from his successful career.
By contrast, model Kate Moss enjoyed five-star holidays around the globe thanks to her father's travel agent job while growing up.
Lord Sugar, the youngest of four children, grew up on a council estate in Hackney to parents too poor to buy a bicycle. Actor Jude Law, on the other hand, was the son of teachers and attended the independent Alleyn's School in south London.Previous studies have linked facial symmetry to attractiveness, but Santiago Sanchez-Pages, who works at the universities of Barcelona and Edinburgh, and Enrique Turiegano, of the Universidad Autnoma de Madrid, will tell a meeting of Nobel Prize laureates next week that those with more symmetrical faces have less need for other people.
The pair write: "As people with symmetrical faces tend to be healthier and more attractive, they are also more self-sufficient and have less of an incentive to co-operate and seek help from others. Through natural selection over thousands of years, these characteristics continue to the present day."
The researchers used a standard test of the propensity to coperate in relation to symmetry.
They also looked at the connection between co-operation levels and exposure to testosterone while still in the womb.
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