The Language of Faces

By Sam Khan-Mcintyre

What appears to be a single face, however it is a mix of multiple different people.

Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh have found that levels of facial symmetry
can show mental decline in men between the ages of 79 and 83.

Researchers have discovered that those with less symmetry in their faces are more likely to have an increased slowdown of brainpower.

Subjects’ results in reasoning and reaction time tests at the university were used alongside the Scottish Mental Health Survey from 1932.

Dr Lars Penke, who led the work, said: “This kind of research is not meant to lead to new treatments, though facial symmetry could become a diagnostic indicator in the long run.”

He added: “Facial symmetry is only an indirect indicator of insults to developmental stability that accumulated over the lifespan, so there’s no expectation that treating symmetry could ever help against mental decline.”

Developmental stability is the ability of an organism to undergo stable development of the observable characteristics (or phenotype) under given environmental conditions.

Disease (such as diabetes or high blood pressure); toxins; alcohol and illicit drugs; lack of activity (mental or physical); stress; malnutrition; or genetic mutations during development, all contribute to developmental stability and therefore mental decline.

Robin Morton, a scientist at Edinburgh University added that stresses on a mother could affect the baby while in the womb and affect symmetry. He also explained that fingerprints can also become asymmetrical in this way.

He said: “Those with higher mental ability tend to age better due to higher thinking ability. Therefore they will have less of a decline. This could help inform a patient’s clinician.”

Comparable results have not yet been found in females, but research is on-going. Dr Penke said: “We still do some work on this topic, but there are no new results worth reporting yet.”