Facial symmetry and severity of gender dimorphism in its proportions in the isanzu people, traditional farmers of East Africa



In modern scientific literature on sexual selection, a significant place is occupied by scientific works that examine the relationship between indicators of fluctuating asymmetry of the face, the expression of sexual dimorphism and individual attractiveness and reproductive success. The present study is devoted to analysis of the data of the ethno-psychological research of representatives of Isanzu tribe - one of the traditional agricultural societies of East Africa (Tanzania). An assessment of the degree of symmetry of the faces of men and women of Isanzu tribe, as well as the expression of characteristics of sexual dimorphism in face proportions was the purpose of this study. On the basis of the evaluation of photographic images of 159 men and 56 women of Isanzu tribe we analyzed and compared the following indexes: indexes of fluctuating asymmetry and sexual dimorphism of the face, finger index, the ratio of waist to hips, the ratio of shoulders to hips, and finally indicators of the age in which expression of fluctuating asymmetry reaches its maximum level. The results of the analysis indicate that faces of men and women of Isanzu tribe do not differ in the level of fluctuating asymmetry, male faces are characterized by pronounced masculine traits; as for the calculation of indexes, we did not detect any age differences based on fluctuating asymmetry index, whereas masculine index tends to increase linearly with increasing age

General Information

Keywords: fluctuating asymmetry of the face, masculinity, the finger index, the ratio of waist to hips, the ratio of shoulders to hips, Isanzu people of Tanzania

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/exppsy.2015080406

For citation: Butovskaya M.L., Veselovskaya E.V., Postnikova E.A. Facial symmetry and severity of gender dimorphism in its proportions in the isanzu people, traditional farmers of East Africa. Eksperimental'naâ psihologiâ = Experimental Psychology (Russia), 2015. Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 77–90. DOI: 10.17759/exppsy.2015080406. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Alexander J., Stimson W.H. Sex hormones and the course of parasitic infection. Parasitology Today, 1988, vol. 4, no. 7, pp. 189-193. doi: 10.1016/0169-4758(88)90077-4
  2. Butovskaya М., Burkova V., Karelin D., Fink B. Digit ratio (2D:4D), aggression, and dominance in the Hadza and the Datoga of Tanzania. American Journal of Human Biology, 2015, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 620-627. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22718
  3. Butovskaya M.L. Antropologiya pola [Gender anthropology]. Fryazino, Vek-2 Publ., 2013. 256 p. (In Russ.).
  4. Butovskaya M.L. Reproduktivnyi uspekh i ekonomicheskii status u datoga - poluosedlykh skotovodov Severnoi Tanzanii [Reproductive success and economic status have datoga - semi-settled pastoralists in Northern Tanzania], Etnograficheskoe obozrenie [Ethnographic Review], 2011, vol. 4, pp. 85-99 (In Russ.).
  5. Butovskaya M.L., Burkova V.N., Fedenok Yu.N. Pal’tsevoi indeks как indikator prenatal’noi androgenizatsii i ego svyaz’s morfologicheskimi i povedencheskimi kharakteristikami u cheloveka [Finger index as an indicator of prenatal androgenization and its relationship with the morphological and behavioral characteristics of a person]. Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie [Ethnographic Review], 2015, vol. 2, pp. 99-116 (In Russ.).
  6. Butovskaya M.L., Karelin D.V., Burkova V.N. Traditsionnye skotovody Vostochnoi Afriki segodnya: reproduktivnyi uspekh, plodovitost’, detskaya smertnost’ i blagosostoyanie datoga Severnoi Tanzanii [Traditional pastoralists in East Africa today: reproductive success, fertility, infant mortality and welfare datoga Northern Tanzania]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta [Bulletin of Moscow University], 2012, vol. 4, pp. 70-83 (In Russ.).
  7. Butovskaya M.L., Postnikova E.A., Veselovskaya E.V., Maurer A.M., Savinetskii A.B., Syroezhkin G.V. Pal’tsevoi indeks, maskulinnost’ litsa i fluktuiruyushchaya asimmetriya как markery polovogo otbora v traditsionnykh afrikanskikh populyatsiyakh khadza i datoga [Fingeri, facial masculinity and fluctuating asymmetry as markers of sexual selection in traditional African populations Hadza and Datoga]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta [Bulletin of Moscow University], 2014, vol. 2, pp. 18-28 (In Russ.).
  8. Crewther B., Cook C., Kilduff L., Manning J. Digit ratio (2D:4D) and salivary testosterone, oestradiol and cortisol levels under challenge: Evidence for prenatal effects on adult endocrine responses. Early Human Development, 2015, vol. 91, no. 8, pp. 451-456. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2015.04.011
  9. Fink B., Penton-Voak I. Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Attractiveness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2002, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 154-158. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00190
  10. Folstad I., Karter A.J. Parasites, Bright Males, and the Immunocompetence Handicap. The American Naturalist, 1992, vol. 139, no. 3, pp. 603-622. doi: 10.1086/285346
  11. Gangestad S.W., Thornhill R., Yeo R.A. Facial attractiveness, developmental stability, and fluctuating asymmetry. Ethology and Sociobiology, 1994, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 73-85. doi: 10.1016/0162-3095(94)90018-3
  12. Grammer K., Thornhill R. Human (Homo sapiens) facial attractiveness and sexual selection: The role of symmetry and averageness. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 1994, vol. 108, no. 3, pp. 233-242. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.108.3.233
  13. Lefevre C.E., Lewis G.J., Perrett D.I., Penke L. Telling facial metrics: facial width is associated with testosterone levels in men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2013, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 273-279. doi: 10.1016/j. evolhumbehav.2013.03.005
  14. Little A.C., Jones B.C., Penton-Voak I.S., Burt D.M., Perrett D.I. Partnership status and the temporal context of relationships influence human female preferences for sexual dimorphism in male face shape. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2002, vol. 269, no. 1496, pp. 1095-1100. doi: 10.1098/ rspb.2002.1984
  15. Little A.C., Jones B.C., Waitt C., Tiddeman B.P., Feinberg D.R., Perrett D.I., Apicella C.L., Marlowe F.W. Symmetry Is Related to Sexual Dimorphism in Faces: Data Across Culture and Species. PLoS ONE, 2008, vol. 3, no. 5, pp. e2106. doi: 10.1371/joumal.pone.0002106
  16. Livshits G., Yakovenko K., Kletselman L., Karasik D., Kobyliansky E. Fluctuating asymmetry and morphometric variation of hand bones. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1998, vol. 107, no. 1, pp. 125-136. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199809)107:l<125::AID-AJPA10>3.0.CO;2-2
  17. Manning J.T. Fluctuating asymmetry and body weight in men and women: Implications for sexual selection. Ethology and Sociobiology, 1995, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 145-153. doi: 10.1016/0162-3095(94)00074-H89
  18. Manning J.T., Koukourakis К., Brodie D.A. Fluctuating asymmetry, metabolic rate and sexual selection in human males. Evolution and Human Behavior, 1997, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 15-21. doi: 10.1016/S1090- 5138(96)00072-4
  19. Meindl K., Windhager S., Wallner B., Schaefer K. Second-to-fourth digit ratio and facial shape in boys: the lower the digit ratio, the more robust the face. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012, vol. 279, no. 1737, pp. 2457-2463. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2351
  20. Milne B.J., Belsky J., Poulton R., Thomson W.M., Caspi A., Kieser J. Fluctuating asymmetry and physical health among young adults. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2003, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 53-63. doi: 10.1016/ S1090-5138(02)00120-4
  21. Mitton J.B., Schuster W.S.F., Cothran E.G., Fries J.C. De. Correlation between the individual heterozygosity of parents and their offspring. Heredity, 1993, vol. 71, no. 1, pp. 59-63. doi: 10.1038/ hdy.1993.107
  22. Palmer A., Strobeck C. Fluctuating Asymmetry Analyses Revisited. Developmental Instability (DI): Causes and Consequences, 2003, vol. 2001, pp. 279-319.
  23. Prosikova E. A., Butovskaya M. L., Veselovskaya E. V. Proportsii litsa i osobennosti povedeniya. Litsevye indeksy maskulinnosti [The proportions of the face and mannerisms. Facial codes of masculinity]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriya XXIII. Antropologiya [Bulletin of Moscow University. Series XXIII. Anthropology], 2015, vol. 3, pp. 59-70 (In Russ.).
  24. Rhodes G., Chan J., Zebrowitz L.A., Simmons L.W. Does sexual dimorphism in human faces signal health? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2003, vol. 270, no. Suppl_l, pp. S93-S95. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2003.0023
  25. Thornhill R., Gangestad S.W. Human fluctuating asymmetry and sexual behavior. Psychological Science, 1994, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 297-302. doi: 10.1111/j.l467-9280.1994.tb00629.x
  26. Valen L. Van. A Study of Fluctuating Asymmetry. Evolution, 1962, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 125-142. doi: 10.2307/2406192

Information About the Authors

Marina L. Butovskaya, Doctor of History, Professor, Head of the Sector of Cross-Cultural Psychology and Human Ethology, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IEA RAS), Leading Researcher Training and Research Center of Social Anthropology, Russian State Humanitarian University (RGGU UNCSA), Professor of the Department of Ethnology, Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5528-0519, e-mail: marina.butovskaya@gmail.com

E. V. Veselovskaya, PhD in Biology, Head of the Laboratory of Anthropological Reconstruction, Institute of Ethology of Antropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, e-mail: veselovskaya.e.v@yandex.ru

Ekaterina A. Postnikova, Postgraduate of Sector of Cross-cultural psychology and Human Ethology, Institute of Ethnology of Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, e-mail: katherine.postnikova@gmail.com



Total: 2745
Previous month: 30
Current month: 9


Total: 521
Previous month: 1
Current month: 0