Beauty-the average face

There are many different standards of beauty. Do large eyes make a person pretty? Or is it high cheekbones that make a person pretty? I have always been fascinated by how stunning some people look, but I often don’t know exactly why they are so pretty. This concept of beauty is intriguing to me because it is hard to find a specific reason that leads to one’s beauty, which is why I chose to do some research regarding what makes a person “pretty”. We all know that beauty is a subjective term: one may find a person beautiful while others may not. However, there are some common grounds according to several research results.

Symmetry and the golden ratio

The two areas people think of the most when relating beauty to science is symmetry and the golden ratio, both of which are related to mathematics.

We can find both symmetry and the golden ratio in mathematics:

Symmetry is when a line of symmetry can be drawn on an object, dividing it into two parts, and the two parts are exactly the same. In fact, most times people find symmetrical faces attractive.

Image result for symmetry

Example of symmetry and asymmetry (c) Mdf, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Golden Ratio is an irrational number that is equal to roughly 1.618. People often represent this number with the Greek letter φ(phi).

Image result for the golden ratio

The golden ratio (c) Mdf, CC BY-SA 3.0

People relate this number to beauty because many of the most amazing man-built structures follow this ratio. For instance, the Parthenon in Greece follows this ratio.

The Parthenon showing a Golden Spiral overlay illustrating Phi or Golden Ratio proportions

A picture of the Parthenon in Greece with the golden ratio (c) Mdf, CC BY-SA 3.0

Averageness

Although we relate the golden ratio and the symmetry of people’s faces with beauty, many research examples showcase another reason for prettiness-averageness. According to Rebecca A. Hoss and Judith H. Langlois’ research on how pretty faces attract infants,  not only infants, but people also rate the average of multiple faces as the most attractive face. The term, average, doesn’t stand for the average attractiveness of each individual. Instead, it represents that the facial features of all the individuals are averaged out.

They used Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection to explain the results of their experiment: Since people with the average facial features of the whole population are less likely to have genetic mutations, they appear as more attractive to most people.

This factor truly surprised me. Before doing the research, I didn’t know that the average of people’s facial features will look the most attractive. Because I thought beauty is rare, and I did not associate rare with average in any way at all.

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