Being beautiful has its rewards and these usually continue throughout adulthood. The secret of beauty and attractiveness is a quest of humans for as long as we became civilized. Many of us spend up to one-third of our income on looking good. Besides being popular, beautiful people get special attention from teachers, the legal system and employers. Good-looking people tend to make more money than their plain-Jane counterparts. A plainness penalty, punishing below-average-looks earn 9 percent less an hour.
We instinctively know what appeals to our own sense of beauty — we know it when we see it — defining what determines attractiveness is not easy. In frustration, we often give up and claim that beauty is in they eye of the beholder. Attractiveness is hard wired in our brains. Babies as young as 3 months identify and prefer faces that most adults would deem beautiful. Europeans can pick out the same beautiful Japanese faces as Japanese subjects. Japanese can agree on which European faces another Europeans will view as beautiful. Humans can even agree on the attractiveness of monkey faces, thus ruling out most unique racial, cultural and even species influences.
Facial recognition is a complex process. Computer facial recognition programs have been developed to analyze the subtle variations of things like the space between our eyes, the size of our noses and the proportions of our facial features. There are certain mathematical facial proportions that identify beautiful people. There is more to beauty than the mere arrangement of eyes, noses and chins. Our brains do much more than simply recognize a beautiful face. We can assess emotions, personality traits and fertility — as well as beauty — almost instantaneously. The human brain has special part called the fusiform, located in the back of the head near the spine. It is the same neural pathway needed to recognize faces of family, friends and people we have met. When it is damaged, the patients cannot recognize anyone, even people they have just met. They cannot discriminate between photographs of plain and beautiful faces.
When we recognize a face as "beautiful" we are actually making a judgement about the health and vitality of that individual. We interpret facial symmetry, that is to say, the similarity of left and right halves of a face and the smoothness of the skin to mean that a person has good genes and is free from diseases. This is part of what we mean by beautiful. Facial symmetry is one of the best observational indicators of good genes and healthy development and that these traits are what we mean when we say someone is attractive.
Facial asymmetry increases with the presence of genetic disturbances such as deleterious recessives and with homozygosity. Facial asymmetry increases with the exposure to environmental perturbations during development. Facial asymmetry is the inability of an individual to resist the disruptions in developmental symmetry. This implies a genetic weakness and less than optimum health. Bilateral symmetry is equated with heterozygosity and resistance to infection and debilitating pathogens. Bilateral symmetry and parasite resistance are factors that show optimum health and increase the success in intersexual and intrasexual competition.
The term homozygosity refers to the similarity of genetic characteristics that can cause a weakening of a species — such as occurs with in-breeding. Heterozygosity, on the other hand, is the result of genetic variety which is able to change and adapt to environmental conditions. The latter is believed to be more beneficial to a species.
Attractiveness from a female’s perspective is related to fertility of women, which causes hormonal changes in the brain that seek out strong testosterone traits in their potential mates. These traits are usually associated with aggressive behavior, risk taking and virility traits that are advantageous in the act of procreation. When women are assessing a man’s face for a marriage partner, they usually react to a man with a wide smile, small eyes, a big nose and a large jaw. This is thought to indicate a strong testosterone level, a potentially good provider and protector for family life. Younger women rely more on the physical attractiveness of a man than do older women. The latter incorporate such things as wealth, stability, power and faithfulness in their definition of attractive.
Attractiveness from a male’s perspective for ideal face of an attractive woman, prefer younger proportions because these child-like faces stimulate emotions of caring and protection. These emotions seem to be more significant than sexual urges and procreation in men. This can be in the psychological realm that dangerously approaches pathology and the law. Yet this "lolita" proclivity is hard wired.
When it comes to body proportions, most men usually like big breasts and hips; again linked to the ability to bare and nurture offspring. Estrogen, the hormone associated with female fertility, encourages fat deposits around the buttocks and thighs. Full buttocks and a narrow waist send out the same message as the ideal face. The woman is full of estrogen and very fertile. Dr Michael Cunningham of Elmhurst College, Illinois found that if a male is judging a female in an interview for a job, a woman with expressive eyebrows and dilated pupils has the edge and is likely to be considered more competent. The same features would not be judged as attractive if the same man was looking for a mate. Cunningham also found that attractive women with mature features, such as small eyes and a large nose, received more respect from men.
A face with average proportions always looks more beautiful than a unique, individual face. Average features make the faces more attractive than any specific face. The average face is easy for the brain to recognize and require less analysis and processing in the fusiform. This ease of recognition is perceived as attractiveness. But this idea is recently disproved by Dr David Perrett, of the University of St Andrews, who found that individual faces were judged more attractive than the composites. This would account for the popularity of actresses such as Brigitte Nielsen and Daryl Hannah, who have features that are far from average.
Psychologist David Perrett found that young men and women prefer faces that most resemble their mothers and fathers. Members of a close family also often share the interpretation of certain facial characteristics in judging someone’s personality. Although this does not relate directly with beauty or attractiveness, it demonstrates that some aspects of evaluating facial characteristics is learned.
My own take on this is that it is a matter of nature versus nurture. Various centers of our hard wired brain, like the fusiform, compete to control our daily decisions. One center is concerned with mate selection based on physical traits. Others brain regions respond to a potential mate who is also intelligent, honest, faithful, kind and sane. Attractiveness, in the end, actually is unique to each individual. It should be said that, "beauty is in the eyes (plural) of the beholder." It is more a matter of left and right brain politics and both hemispheres must work together to attract us to the perfect mate, as they usually do.
According to Science Daily, men with large jaws, flaring cheeks and large eyebrows are sexy, at least in the eyes of our ancestors. Facial attractiveness plays a major role in shaping human evolution. Our choice of sexual partner has shaped the human face. The face holds the secret to determining the sex of our ancestors and what makes us attractive to the opposite sex for reproduction.
According to paleontologists at the Natural History Museum, men evolved short faces between the brow and upper lip, which exaggerates the size of their jaw, the flare of their cheeks and their eyebrows. The shorter and broader male face has also evolved alongside and the canine teeth have shrunk, so men look less threatening to competitors, yet attractive to mates.
At puberty, the region between the mouth and eyebrows, known as upper facial height, develops differently in men and women. Unlike other facial features, however, this difference cannot be explained simply in terms of men being bigger than women. In spite of their larger size, men have an upper face similar in height to a female face, but much broader. These differences can be found throughout human history. As a result, a simple ratio of measures could be used to calculate facial attractiveness in a biological and mathematical way. In fact, scientists recently invented a computer program that can recognize attractiveness.
Dr Eleanor Weston, paleontologist at the Natural History Museum is of the opinion that the evolution of facial appearance is central to understanding what makes men and women attractive to each other. It is discovered that the distance between the lip and brow is immensely important to what made homosapiens attractive in the past, as it does now.
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.