Hendrie, Colin A. and Brewer, Gayle
Evidence to Suggest That Teeth Act as Human Ornament Displays Signalling Mate Quality.
PLoS ONE, 7
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042178
Ornament displays seen in animals convey information about genetic quality, developmental history and current disease state to both prospective sexual partners and potential rivals. In this context, showing of teeth through smiles etc is a characteristic feature of human social interaction. Tooth development is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Adult teeth record environmental and traumatic events, as well as the effects of disease and ageing. Teeth are therefore a rich source of information about individuals and their histories. This study examined the effects of digital manipulations of tooth colour and spacing. Results showed that deviation away from normal spacing and/or the presence of yellowed colouration had negative effects on ratings of attractiveness and that these effects were markedly stronger in female models. Whitening had no effect beyond that produced by natural colouration. This indicates that these colour induced alterations in ratings of attractiveness are mediated by increased/decreased yellowing rather than whitening per se. Teeth become yellower and darker with age. Therefore it is suggested that whilst the teeth of both sexes act as human ornament displays, the female display is more complex because it additionally signals residual reproductive value.
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