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What Does Science Say About What We Find Attractive In A Person?

First Posted: Apr 14, 2021 09:55 AM EDT
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What Does Science Say About What We Find Attractive In A Person?

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The idea of perfect beauty hails back to Plato's Symposium - a work in which the scholar argued that human beings have a conception of beauty that can be identified in a specific person or thing because we have a conception of beauty in the abstract. While modern notions of beauty often emphasize subjectivity ('Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'), science indicates that the ancient Greek scholar may have hit the nail on the head. Recent scientific studies show that there are specific proportions that manifest themselves in the faces we find handsome or beautiful.

A Golden Ratio Of Beauty?

Scientists at the University of Toronto found that in addition to traditional features characterized as 'beautiful' in a woman's face - full lips and large eyes, for instance - there is a 'golden ratio' that determines how attractive women are to others. The key factor to watch out for was an optimal relation between the eyes, the mouth, and the edge of the face. The researchers found that women's faces were deemed more attractive when the vertical distance between the mouth and the eyes amounted to 36% of the total length of the face, and when the horizontal distance between the eyes amounted to 46% of the width of the face. 

Symmetry Is A Key Component Of Beauty

A scientific study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that symmetry and sexual dimorphism (how masculine or feminine a face is in a man or woman, respectively) is a key measure of attractiveness. Symmetry is actually a quality that is easier to achieve in  modern times, with facial fillers increasingly being used to correct asymmetries in the face - including uneven cheekbones and jawlines. There are also more permanent solutions to asymmetry - including jaw implants - though many people begin by seeking natural solutions to correct jawline asymmetries. These include facial stretches, posture misalignment correction, and cheek toning exercises.

The Law Of Averages

You might want to rethink the old idea that beauty is unique. Studies by Gangestad and Thornhill (and many subsequent researchers), however, show that the closer the alignment of one's feature is to a population average, the more it is considered attractive. This is because this ratio of proportions indicates genetic diversity. One study by JH LAnglois and colleagues reiterated the idea that attractive ages are "only average." In the study, participants were shown several digital composites of faces. Results showed that the larger the number of faces used to create these digital composites, the more attractive they were deemed by participants. In the University of Toronto ('golden ratio') study, it was found that this ratio corresponds to those of an average face. Researchers believe that people take in all the faces they see and average them out to obtain ideal width and height proportions. They also believe that averageness and symmetry are both 'proxies' for good health.

Beauty may ultimately be in the eye of the beholder, but it pays to have features that are scientifically closer to an ideal ratio. This ratio stipulates specific height and width percentages. Faces which are closer to the average are considered more beautiful than those which veer from it. 

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