Chickens prefer beautiful humans.

By Seriously Science | January 6, 2016 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/zoetnet

Many people believe that our perceptions of human beauty are primarily determined by societal norms. But could there be something innate in our brains that influence whether we think a face is beautiful? Here, a group of researchers tested this hypothesis by determining whether chickens have any innate preferences for certain human faces. To do so, they trained chickens to react to either an average human male or female face. They then showed the chickens a series of faces of different levels of attractiveness (see Figure 1 below) and measured how much the chickens pecked at each face (a measure of their preference for the face). Surprisingly, they found that the chickens preferred the same faces as did human volunteers (in this case university students asked to rate the faces for attractiveness), suggesting that something about these faces makes them inherently more attractive to our nervous systems. So there you have it: the next time you want to know which photo to use for your profile picture, consider asking a chicken.

Chickens prefer beautiful humans.

“We trained chickens to react to an average human female face but not to an average male face (or vice versa). In a subsequent test, the animals showed preferences for faces consistent with human sexual preferences (obtained from university students). This suggests that human preferences arise from general properties of nervous systems, rather than from face-specific adaptations. We discuss this result in the light of current debate on the meaning of sexual signals and suggest further tests of existing hypotheses about the origin of sexual preferences.”

Bonus figure from the main text:

fig 1 chickens

Thanks to Lynn for today’s post!

Related content:
Chickens with artificial tails reveal how dinosaurs roamed the earth.
An autopsy of chicken nuggets.
NCBI ROFL: Sorry Tommy, even this pigeon thinks your painting sucks

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals
  • OWilson

    Once again, one hopes they would control for cultural bias.

    Were these chickens from all over the world, or just from California? :)

    • Emkay

      Prior to ‘pecking for faces’ they were wine tasters in Napa Valley.

  • Uncle Al

    The graph correlates with who scatters the chickenfeed – farm women and bottom salary female lab techs. Chickens are being trained to be haters: LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQQ, MSGI, GSD, SGL, GLBTA, GSM, MSM, FABGLITTER, LGBTQ+, and especially unknown acronyms.

    • Emkay

      And do not forget the DAR, NAACP, BSA, and the infamous NRA..

  • jhertzli

    Will this be the basis of a reality TV show?

  • Karen Allen

    It appears to me that the selected faces had the least amount of shadow compared to the other faces in the study. It could be that a “beatific countenance” is appreciated across species.

  • inconvenientroof

    They should try this experiment with celebrity faces. Do chickens prefer Amy Schumer or Jennifer Lawrence? And so on.

    • OWilson

      Apparently Col. Harland Sanders wasn’t too popular.

  • AG

    Judging fitness is based on average value of specific population. The physical fitness is related to mutational loads. Thus physical beauty is visual indicator of low genetic loads. Mating Is heavily depending on physical beauty in order to get rid of mutational loads through sexual reproduction.
    Judging fitness across species can also happens. Predators can spot unfit individual to prey on (easy prey like injured animals). Farmers/breeders can select most fit individual from non-human species (both plants and animals) for reproduction. As a boy growing on farm, I can do breeding selection for pig and chickens based on their physical fitness because I have seen enough of them. Like prior post, you need enough exposure of particular population to pick up its median/average value.
    Yes, beauty contest can be done by different species.

  • Don’t Even Try It!

    This kind of a “bird brain” study is strictly for the “birds”!


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar