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Chickens Prefer Attractive People (nationalgeographic.com)
114 points by lnguyen 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments

"For instance, chickens can recognize up to 30 other individual chickens, and chicks imprint the image of their mother between 24 to 36 hours of hatching" Back in 1993 I sold a messaging Egyptian red dove, and its white dove wife separately. The messaging dove expectedly came back within 3 weeks, but I was surprised it couldn't distinguish its wife! It decided a newly bought white dove, which looked like its wife, was his wife and it the bullying didn't stop until she obliged.

There is another conclusion: chicken read the mind of humans :) The original article: http://cogprints.org/5272/1/ghirlanda_jansson_enquist2002.pd...

Hm. If only my grandma still had that chicken coop in the backyard, I could make a chicken-based Tinder crawler and get rich.

> The chickens pecked more at screens showing symmetrical faces—revealing the same preferences as the 14 people who had done the same experiment.

Basically, a tiny study claims that chickens like symmetrical faces.

I don't see how this text is correct:

Typically breeds with white earlobes lay white eggshells, and those with red earlobes lay brown eggshells

followed by

There are exceptions, like Rhode Island reds, which have red earlobes and brown eggs.

As far as I know, white=white and red=brown. It's that follow-on sentence that doesn't make sense; how can restating the same thing be an exception?

Is there someone hear with more knowledge about this?

I agree, it's not an "exception". (Also, it appears that Rhode Island Reds do indeed have red earlobes and browns eggs. [1]).

Weirdly, this article links to another article [2] which makes a very similar statement, but instead uses the (valid) exception, "Lamona chickens have red earlobes, but their eggshells are white."

[1] http://www.raising-chickens.org/rhode-island-reds.html

[2] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/141213-eggs...

Thank you!

I found a study on that: http://www.genetics.org/content/genetics/13/6/470.full.pdf

Last sentence: "7. There was no evidence of any linkage between the factors for earlobe color and egg color."

My guess is that having an association between earlobe color and egg color is convenient for breeders, so they prefer chickens with corresponding colors.

That's a different issue, but thank you.

I noticed that too. It must be an error in the article.


They don't love me they just love my bucket of grain :(

This article reminds me of classical history. For Greeks beauty was harmony which they translated to mathematical terms. In the article they only equate beauty and face symmetry. I wonder if chickens or other animals would be attracted to canons of body proportions. Or even to non-natural objects based on the golden ratio for instance.

Time to test if the renaissance Vitruvian man was all right!

> face symmetry

One of the most terrifying things was those symmetrialised (is this a word?) faces of celebrities few years ago flooding the web. Completely inhuman look.

This might be because we all are relatives, there was a creature which first had something like an eye, then an eye, and it's our common ancestor, so perception of the relative species is to some extent common.

Or may be that's because there is a universal concept of beauty, as Feinman was guessing, but I doubt it.

All an eye does is give optical data to the brain. It's the brain that "decides" to interpret it a particular way. So it's interesting that the brain decides similar qualities (symmetry for instance) are more "interesting".

Am I missing something or does the article not explain why pecking at a face is interpreted as it is?

Study: Chickens prefer beautiful humans.

Citation: Ghirlanda, S., Jansson, L. & Enquist, M. Hum Nat (2002) 13: 383.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-002-1021-6

DOI: 10.1007/s12110-002-1021-6

Abstract: 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.

I wonder what aspects of human beauty chickens are perceiving? Purely at a guess, I would say symmetry of features and signs of health/reproductive health. Given that they’re looking st faces, this seems most likely to me.

If chickens are anything like a neural network (and they kinda have to be at some level, perhaps a more complicated network than what we have in our computers now, but a learning discriminator network nonetheless) - it sounds like they would be reacting on the features which vary the most between male and female faces.

They have trained chickens to discern between male and female faces. It would be logical to assume that they have found features that allow them to put each sample on that one-dimensional scale, and then use those features. It would mean that a more "beautiful" face is the one that is most distinguished in it's features from the face of another sex.

This would be the most naive interpretation, but as always in nature, there can of course be layers of complexity on top of this.

I don’t think this is a good explanation. Having played with Poser [0] as a kid a lot, my intuition is that extreme feature parameter settings usually look rather disfigured and unattractive. The chicken brain more likely forms two clusters [1] (one for each sex) and responds more strongly the closer the sensory input is to either of the cluster means. Average faces tend to look attractive, e.g. [2].

Another, related explanation might be Occam’s razor (the preference for simple things [3]): Beautiful things are beautiful because they are simple. They require fewer bits to be represented and brains prefer such representations. This is a fact that possibly also explains intrinsic motivation and our interest in art and science [4].

Another explanation might be that chickens have evolved abilities to recognize symmetric body shapes and a uniform skin texture for their own intraspecies visual (sexual) attraction. Sexual attraction to symmetry likely mainly exists because asymmetry is reliable evidence that growth hormone signaling was not only out of tune in some regions of the body (e.g. the face), but throughout the entire system and this is the root cause of all kinds of diseases (e.g. faster wearing joints) [5].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poser

[1] https://www.facebook.com/nipsfoundation/videos/1555427447881...

[2] https://i.imgur.com/Xs4njxa.jpg

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

[4] http://people.idsia.ch/~juergen/creativity.html

[5] http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/project/oplan/documents/1999/1999-M... (Entry "Section Sexual Attraction, Evolutionary Psychology of", p. 884. The entire entry is well worth reading.)

Chickens are nice, and usually more intelligent than what most people think, but the "attractive" people choice sounds a bit too much to be plausible. It could be that they like simmetry, but not necessarily a simmetric face is also "attractive".

Anecdotally however my father used to have one that not only recognized us (all people in the family) from a distance, she would also act as a guard dog if anyone else entered the court she lived in.

OT, and probably re-known, however here is the story of Mike, the headless chicken:


There is also another point of view; the reason we have a concept of 'good looking' human faces to begin with is because, at some point, the human brain has to distinguish between looking at another ally (human) or a possible predator. So better looking people are just humans that look more.. human. It's not a stretch then for other animals such as chickens to also think this way, and they may get confused looking at less attractive human faces that resemble other predators that they are hard coded to run from.

A rising trend in many Asian cultures is to consider extremely feminine men as beautiful. In the history the beauty standards have also shifted several times.

Symmetry is explicitly mentioned in the original article and the study you're commenting on.

I guess this explains it, my chickens have been refusing to go into the coop at night. I knew I gained some weight over the holidays, but I didn't realize how grotesque I became.

I think you've got it backwards. You are so attractive that the chickens want to stay outside the coop with you!

That video of the rooster pecking and eating the cobra to protect its flock is amazing.

Yeah, it's quite something. I've been fortunate enough to live with a Balinese (Indonesia) family in their family compound, and have learned quite a bit about the ins and outs of chicken/rooster behavior.

One of the things that caught my attention is the endurance that roosters show against one another. Not only do their protect their families, but also their pride.

On one occasion, one of my friends smaller roosters (not sure of the breed) would go against a rooster three times the size. And he won! The other rooster (bigger one) was caged at that point.

It was amusing to me to watch the smaller rooster climb on top of the cage and just sit there. The only other time you'll see that happening is when a smaller chicken is seeking protection from another family of chickens.

Fascinating animals. I used to grow up with chickens all around my neighborhood home but never paid enough attention to see their behavior reflect instinct and some form of empathy.

The writing in this article is very poor quality.

Maybe so, but that's no reason to make HN threads poorer in quality by posting unsubstantive comments.

I literally have no idea why you think this isnt a valid comment.

It can be politically incorrect to state that some people are more physically attractive than others, but in the “is beauty objective” debate, this seems to be at least a sign that beauty is not totally subjective?

Is it really politically incorrect? I'm pretty sure I read from multiple credible sources that people correlate massively as for who they find attractive. So it's subjective, but most people agree.

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