They say, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ We may not all agree on what’s beautiful, but the way our brains judge and process attractiveness is universal. To figure out how we decide what’s hot and what’s not, Dr. Kang Lee, at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Pam Pallett, who’s at Ohio State University, co-authored a 2010 study about female facial attractiveness.
Facial attractiveness is what drives our reproduction. What makes a person attractive and how this attractiveness works? The researchers have found way more than just that. They discovered a few myths and facts that may have you second-guessing your own thoughts on attractiveness. For example, have you paid attention to the golden ratio? Ancient Greeks believed beauty was represented by a ratio of 1:1.618. Whether that proportion is in art or architecture or even your face, some people might think that’s what makes things attractive.
Dr. Kang Lee has found that for each person on our face we actually have some intrinsic ratio between the distance between our eyes, and the distance for example between our eyes and our mouth that make our face look attractive. Because of this facial ratio, a simple haircut can make you look like a supermodel overnight, if it changes the optimal ratio of your face. The ideal ratio is when the distance between your eyes and mouth measures about 36 percent of the length of your whole face and when the distance between just your eyes measures about 46 percent of your face’s width. So getting bangs, for instance, can shorten the apparent length of your face, but what about extremely attractive people? Are they physiological outliers? Do they kind of step outside the norm?
The more average a face is the better looking the face is. Essentially, what our brain does is we go around in our environment, picking up people’s faces and making the average out of these faces we see on a daily basis. Then we actually have that standard in our brain. We have a representation of the typical of the face. There is a bit we have genetically that’s driving us to look at something that’s average. Creating standard is actually beneficial in terms of your ability to process information, because it makes it easier to encode standard information.
There’s another factor behind how attractiveness works. We have what’s called sexual dimorphic cues. They make us more attractive to the opposite sex — for women, this means feminine traits like bigger eyes and fuller lips and, woman play up these traits for attractiveness with makeup. But does it really work? By adding eyelashes, you actually set up a high contrast between your eyes and the surrounding areas of your face. The high contrast makes the face or the eyes more attractive to others, similar with the color of the lips and surrounding skin. The larger that contrast is, the more feminine a woman will appear, and you can imagine the usage of makeup in promoting that.
One study in France found that waitresses wearing red lipstick got bigger tips from men. A recent study out of Gettysburg College found this whole contrasting of facial features helps us decipher how young or old someone looks. Sexual selection across species is what causes either a male or female to land a date, or a mate, by appearing more attractive. Research suggests that even flamingos apply a makeup of their own during mating season; both male and female birds will apply natural oil on their feathers to pop a little pinker. So what do you think: Is beauty really only a matter of biology? Is it out of our control? How does that affect relationships?
Humans prefer attractive faces over unattractive ones. Our preference for attractive faces exists from early infancy and is robust across age, gender and ethnicity. The quest to define facial beauty either by the size or shape of isolated facial features, for example, eyes or lips or by the spatial relations between facial features dates back to antiquity, when the Ancient Greeks believed beauty was represented by a golden ratio of 1:1.618. Although there is little support for the golden ratio, studies have shown that averaging a group of faces results in a synthetic face more attractive than any of the originals. Furthermore, a sufficiently large increase in the distance between the eyes and mouth of an individual face can make the face appear grotesque. Any individual’s facial attractiveness can be optimized when the spatial relations between facial features approximate those of the average face. However, no evidence to date has confirmed this suggestion.
Two types of alterations can be made to the spatial relations between facial features of any individual face. One may alter the vertical distance between the eyes and the mouth; this alteration results in a change in the ratio of this distance to the face length, which is measured by the distance between the hairline and the chin. The ratio is henceforth referred to as the length ratio. The other alteration is to change the horizontal distance between the pupils; this change alters the ratio between this distance and the face width, which is measured between the inner edges of the ears. This ratio is henceforth referred to as the width ratio.
Using a regression analysis to determine the exact relation between the attractiveness score and length ratio, it is found that facial attractiveness follows a curvilinear function with length ratio. Face with an average length ratio is rated as more attractive than faces with other length ratios. This is further supported by the finding that attractiveness scores for faces without an average length ratio were significantly less than the mean attractiveness score for the faces with an average length ratio.
When an optimally attractive state for an individual face in terms of both length and width ratios is examined, it is found that facial attractiveness follows a curvilinear function with the width ratio. When an individual face’s length ratio is already optimal, the optimal width ratio maximizing its attractiveness is 46. Attractiveness scores for faces without an average width ratio were significantly less than the mean attractiveness score for the faces with an average width ratio. Attractiveness scores for faces without an average length ratio were significantly less than the mean attractiveness score for the faces with an average length ratio indicating preference for an ideal length ratio is independent of the width ratio.
In each individual face, there exists an optimally attractive state in terms of both length and width ratios. When the face’s eye-to-mouth distance is 36 percent of the face length and interocular distance is 46 percent of the face width, the face reaches its optimal attractiveness given its unique facial features. Further, although the absolute level of attractiveness may vary with differences in facial features, the optimal length and width ratios remain constant. These optimal, golden ratios correspond with those of an average face. Critically, this preference for average ratios reflects a true preference for the average and not a regression toward the mean. These results may explain some basic daily observations, such as why some hairstyles can make an unattractive face appear more attractive or vice versa. Changing one’s hairstyle may alter the perceived face length or face width, as well as their related length and width ratios, therefore affecting the perceived attractiveness of the face.
Many experiments on attractiveness involve comparing faces that differ in both facial features and spatial relations, but the presence of features that vary in attractiveness could obscure any effect of variation in feature spatial relation on attractiveness. Also, prior research comparing an average face to individual faces failed to discover the ideal length and width ratios for any individual face because the averaging process tends to not only average the spatial relations between facial features but also smoothes the facial features and skin texture. This smoothing effect could artificially increase the attractiveness of the average face, obscuring the effect of average spatial relations on facial attractiveness.
Identifying the optimal length and width ratios for individual facial beauty have attracted a tremendous amount of pursuit, but yet eluded discovery for centuries. Furthermore, the present findings suggest that although different faces vary greatly in absolute attractiveness, for any particular face, there is an optimal spatial relation between facial features that will reveal its intrinsic beauty.
It should be noted that the optimal spatial relations found can also coexist with preferences for sexually dimorphic features. A woman who has large lips, suggesting a strong mating potential, with average length and width ratios will always be more attractive than a woman with narrow lips and average length and width ratios. It is unknown, however, whether the preference for average length and width ratios is stronger than the desire for a pronounced sexually dimorphic trait. In other words, a woman with large lips and unattractive length and width ratios may or may not be preferred to a woman with narrow lips and ideal length and width ratios. Future research is necessary to assess the nature of this trade-off.
By definition, eye-mouth-eye angle involves both horizontal and vertical components. The preference for an average length ratio is independent of the width ratio. Therefore, it is important to note that despite the similarity between the two measures, they may actually measure two very different aspects of the face. While eye-mouth-eye angle provides information on the spatial relations between internal facial features, it also assesses the relation between the internal features and the external facial contour. Since faces are perceived holistically, it is important to consider the facial elements in the context of the whole face. It is possible for the length and width ratios to vary, while eye-mouth-eye angle stays the same, and vice versa. In the context of the whole face length ratios and width ratios appear independent, but within the localized area of the eyes and mouth, there may be an interaction between length and width.
Why should we find a face with an average length and width ratio attractive? Two existing theories provide explanations at two different levels. At the evolutionary level, it has been suggested that humans prefer to reproduce with other healthy mates. Generations of healthy mate selection may act as an evolutionary averaging process. This process leads to the propagation of healthy individuals with physical characteristics, including faces that approximate the population average. As a result, we are biologically predisposed to find average faces attractive. At the cognitive level, it is well established that after exposure to a series of exemplars from one object category, we form a prototype, that is to say, an average for this category. One robust consequence of prototype formation is that we find the prototype more attractive than any individual category members because the prototype is easier to process. Due to this same cognitive averaging mechanism, the average face is perceived as more attractive than any individual face. It is suggested that while the two theories provide different levels of explanation, they may work together to account for our preferences for the optimal length and width ratios for facial beauty. The evolutionary process predisposes us to find average length and width ratios attractive. The cognitive process prescribes what the average length and width ratios are by averaging the ratios of individual faces we have encountered to date.
Love gives beauty to everything it touches. Not greed and utility; they produce offices, but not dwelling houses. To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not be attached to them, this is a great service. Providence expects that we should make this world our own, and not live in it as though it were a rented tenement. We can only make it our own through some service, and that service is to lend it love and beauty from our soul. Your own experience shows you the difference between the beautiful, the tender, the hospitable, and the mechanically neat and monotonously useful.
Hairless skin first evolved in humans as a way to keep cool and then turned into a canvas to help them look cool, according to a Penn State anthropologist. About 1.5 to 2 million years ago, early humans, who were regularly on the move as hunters and scavengers, evolved into nearly hairless creatures to more efficiently sweat away excess body heat. Later, humans began to decorate skin to increase attractiveness to the opposite sex and to express, among other things, group identity.
We can make a visual impact and present a completely different impression than we can with regular, undecorated skin says Jablonski, who reports on her research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
Over the millennia, people turned their skin into canvases of self-expression in different ways, including permanent methods, such as tattooing and branding, as well as temporary ones, including cosmetics and body painting. Both males and females use forms of skin decoration to become more attractive to the opposite sex. Women, for example, may use makeup to increase the size of their eyes, a cue that is considered attractive in most cultures. Males in some cultures also use skin decoration as a way to bring out facial features to appeal to women, or to look more menacing and warrior-like. We can paint a great design on our bodies and use those designs to send all sorts of messages or express group memberships.
While parents may still fret that their children are choosing tattoo designs frivolously, people have traditionally put considerable time and thought into the tattoos. Usually it is something with deep meaning. Talk to people about their tattoos, they tell you they’ve spent months or years choosing a design that is incredibly meaningful and salient to them.
Prior to the evolution of mostly naked skin, humans were furry creatures, not unlike chimpanzees are now. Skin decoration would not be possible if humans were still covered with fur. Studying skin is difficult because it can be preserved only for a few thousand years, unlike bones and fossils, which last millions of years. Scientists base their estimate on when humans evolved hairless skin on the study of the fossil record and examination of the molecular history of genes that code proteins that help produce skin pigmentation. There is lot of evidence with respect to when humans began to lose hair based on molecular genetics.
Humans are the only primates that are essentially hairless, although aquatic mammals, like whales and dolphins, have no hair. Prior to the idea that humans evolved hairlessness as a mechanism to cope with body heat, some scientists believe that hairlessness resulted from evolution from a common aquatic ancestor. However, the theory, often referred to as the aquatic ape theory, does not match the genetic, fossil and environmental evidence.
While it is difficult to exactly say when humans began to decorate their skin, some of the earliest preserved skin shows signs of tattooing.