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Fluctuating asymmetry is an organism’s deviation from bilateral symmetry.[1] It can be measured in the body—as in bilateral symmetry of finger lengths—or in a particular organ. It is related to concepts of symmetry such as facial symmetry, and is believed to measure the ability of the genome to successfully canalize and buffer development to achieve a normal phenotype under imperfect environmental conditions, as implied by Waddington's notion of canalization.[2] As such it is a key concept in evolution and development, and underlies concepts such as resilience or developmental stability—the ability to maintain a normal developmental course under stress.[1]

In individual differences research, FA has been associated with human traits such as social dominance,[3] working memory,[4] and intelligence.[5][6][7] In old age, facial symmetry has been associated with better cognitive aging.[8] There is some evidence that the degree of bodily symmetry in individuals influences our assessment of how well they dance, supporting Darwin's suggestion that dance is a sexually selected courtship signal.[9]

Symmetry also affects physical attractiveness.[10]

see also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Valen, Leigh Van (June 1962). A Study of Fluctuating Asymmetry. Evolution 16 (2): 125–142.
  2. Waddington, Conrad Hal (1957). The Strategy of the Genes, 262, George Allen & Unwin.
  3. Furlow, B, Gangestad, SW, Armijo-Prewitt, T (1998-01-07). Developmental stability and human violence.. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society 265 (1390): 1–6.
  4. Yeo, RA, Hill, D, Campbell, R, Vigil, J, Brooks, WM (2000). Developmental instability and working memory ability in children: a magnetic resonance spectroscopy investigation.. Developmental neuropsychology 17 (2): 143–59.
  5. Furlow, FB, Armijo-Prewitt, T, Gangestad, SW, Thornhill, R (1997-06-22). Fluctuating asymmetry and psychometric intelligence.. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society 264 (1383): 823–9.
  6. Bates, T (1 January 2007). Fluctuating asymmetry and intelligence. Intelligence 35 (1): 41–46.
  7. Prokosch, M, Yeo, R, Miller, G (1 April 2005). Intelligence tests with higher -loadings show higher correlations with body symmetry: Evidence for a general fitness factor mediated by developmental stability. Intelligence 33 (2): 203–213.
  8. Penke, Lars, Bates, Timothy C., Gow, Alan J., Pattie, Alison, Starr, John M., Jones, Benedict C., Perrett, David I., Deary, Ian J. (1 November 2009). Symmetric faces are a sign of successful cognitive aging. Evolution and Human Behavior 30 (6): 429–437.
  9. Brown, William M., Cronk, Lee, Grochow, Keith, Jacobson, Amy, Liu, C. Karen, Popović, Zoran, Trivers, Robert (22 December 2005). Dance reveals symmetry especially in young men. Nature 438 (7071): 1148–1150.
  10. DOI:10.3390/sym2021081
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