March 11, 2013 by Ville Raivio
“Recent research has shown that in fact all people seem to have similar ideas about what constitutes an attractive face. We all seem to judge faces in the same way – but why and how does this work? And what social consequences might this have?
During a long-term research project at the Universities of Regensburg and Rostock (Germany), we have tried to find answers to questions like these. We questioned why some faces seem more attractive than others; and we did experiments on social perception, that is: we tried to find out about the social qualities attributed to faces of specific attractiveness.
We conducted seven large sampling surveys (total n=500) in order to test several hypotheses on human facial attractiveness. These hypotheses are the ‘attractiveness is averageness’ hypothesis (Langlois & Roggmann, 1990: “average faces are most attractive”), the ‘symmetry hypothesis’ (Grammer &Thornhill, 1994; Thornhill & Gangestad 1999: “facial symmetry has a positive influence on facial attractiveness ratings”) and the theory of ‘multidimensional beauty perception’ (Cunningham, 1986: “attractive faces show a combination of signs of sexual maturity and babyfaceness”). We furthermore performed experiments on the correlation between attractiveness and attributed social qualities (Dion, Berscheid & Walster, 1972: “what is beautiful is good”).
The results of our symmetry experiments show a clear but only weak relationship between facial attractiveness and symmetry: very asymmetrical faces are rated unattractive, but unattractive faces don’t need to be asymmetrical. Vice versa, very symmetrical faces don’t need to be very attractive, and very attractive faces may show remarkable deviations from ideally symmetrical proportions. In summary, symmetry seems only to be a weak factor to explain facial attractiveness.
To sum up, our study shows clearly that the most attractive faces do not exist in reality, they are morphs, i.e. computer-created compound images you would never find in everyday live. These virtual faces showed characteristics that are unreachable for average human beings.
Despite this fact, people living in modern post-industrial societies are exposed to these kinds of artificially created and manipulated, ‘perfect’ faces every day, e.g. via TV advertising or fashion magazines. The result may be that we all may become victims of our self-created, completely unrealistic ideal of beauty. ”
Category Links | Tags: