A new study explains why people disagree over facial attractiveness with others.
The idea that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder has been around for a long time. New research has recently tested the phrase and found it absolutely true.
According to the study, an individual’s perception about attractiveness is mostly shaped by environment and personal experiences. Though, certain characteristics of human faces are universally thought attractive but to what extent, it depends on each individual.
The recent study analyzed the facial preferences of 35,000 people who visited the website “Test My Brain.” Then, researchers looked at 547 sets of identical twins who have 100% same DNA and 214 sets of fraternal twins who have half similar genes.
The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of 98 male faces and 102 female faces. The idea was to measure how much each participant’s rating was different from the others.
On average, two random participants agreed on the attractiveness of a face 48 percent and disagreed 52 percent, suggesting environmental experiences have much more influence on the people’s idea of beauty than genetics.
"We estimate that an individual's aesthetic preferences for faces agree about 50 percent, and disagree about 50 percent, with others," states joint leaders of the project, Laura Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University and Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College. "This fits with the common intuition that on the one hand, fashion models can make a fortune with their good looks, while on the other hand, friends can endlessly debate about who is attractive and who is not."
The comparison between identical and fraternal twin ratings allowed researchers to estimate the contributions of genes and environment to determining face attractiveness.
“The types of environments that are important are not those that are shared by those who grow up in the same family, but are much more subtle and individual, potentially including things such as one’s unique, highly personal experiences with friends or peers, as well as social and popular media.” Germine said.
The new research is a part of a previous research conducted by the same team, which was trying to find out the universal features of attraction while the latest study was focused on how these disagreements over facial attractiveness come from.
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“The large impact of experience on individual face provides a novel window into the evolution and architecture of the social brain, while lending new empirical support to the long standing claim that environment shape individual notions of what is attractive.”