Attractiveness and beauty are our everyday obsession, yet what is real beauty? Why do we find some people beautiful and others not so much? Over the past few decades, there have been some great psychology research done on the topic. Here is what was discovered:
We find people with more symmetrical faces and bodies to be more attractive, sexier, and healthier according to several psychology studies as explained in Human Sexuality. We are so focused on symmetry, that in another study, participants were able to rate symmetrical faces as most attractive even when shown only one side of the face!
Although researchers really know why this is the case, one possible evolutionary explanation is that symmetry indicates normal genetic development. Since both sides of our body follow the same genetic instructions, high asymmetry might mean that this person is not the best genetically for us to reproduce with. In fact, studies have found that individuals with high asymmetry are more likely to suffer from a variety of disorders, including mental retardation, extremely premature birth, schizophrenia, and psychological and physiological distress.
Computer-generated images that “average” several female and male faces are considered more attractive than each of the individual faces used in the composite. This seems counter-intuitive, especially since looking “average” is never a compliment. Although the “Average Jane” and “Average Joe” faces have been found to be most attractive, it is possible to create an even more attractive Jane and Joe by averaging the faces of only already attractive people.
Image via danielweinard.com.
One possible explanation for this effect might be that computer-generated average images are just ultra symmetrical, and we are attracted to the symmetry.
We also find faces at the extremes of femininity or masculinity most attractive as shown by experiments that “morphed” faces continuously from a hyper-masculine face to an androgynous face to a hyper-feminine face.
Image via apa psychnet.
Traits that indicate masculinity or femininity of a face include jaw width (wider in men), mouth and nose width (wider in men), chin size (larger in men), lip fullness (fuller in women), eyebrow bushiness (bushier in men), and eye size (larger in women). These traits are mostly developed as a result of sex hormones (androgens for men and estrogen for women) during puberty.
These traits are especially attractive to us because they indicate the person has undergone a normal puberty and is most likely fertile.
The waist-to-hip-ratio is an important indicator of fertility. Women tend to accumulate fat in their hips, butt, and thighs, while men accumulate their fat higher up in the body.
Men therefore find women are most attractive with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7-0.8, and women find men most attractive with the waist-to-hip ratio of 0.9. This attractiveness ration holds true across all body sizes, from leanest to obesity, and across cultures.
However, as we know, absolute body fatness is not considered attractive in our culture today, even if the waist-to-hip ratio is attractive. However, in some cultures with scarce food resources, a higher body size for a woman indicates she has enough resources to carry out a pregnancy and is therefore found to be attractive. If you look at a lot of old paintings in an art museum, you will find that a lot of the “beautiful” women depicted were not stick-thin as some of today’s models are.
Image via Self.
Breasts And Pecs
Breasts are clearly very attractive to heterosexual men, but what size is optimal? Before you decide to get implants, one study found that increasing breast size had no effect on how men perceived a woman’s attractiveness while women found this to actually be less attractive in other women. Meanwhile, another study found that men do prefer larger-than-average breast size, but not nearly the size women think men like. I guess the question remains to be answered…
As for men, women find men with wide shoulders and large pectoral muscles (pecs) to be most attractive. According to an evolutionary explanation, this is because these features indicate strength.
Article image via People.