By Thamar Jones
How do we define beauty? What exactly makes something or someone attractive?
They say, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ I disagree.
While we may all have different preferences— it turns out, that how our brains judge and process attractiveness is universal—science says so. Scientists say that there is a formula to how our brains decide what’s hot and what’s not.
Cognitive researchers Dr. Kang Lee and Dr. Pam Pallett claim to have found some key factors in determining how attractive our faces may appear to others. They even suggested in a 2010 study that these keys to attractiveness include facial ratio, alluring features, and averageness.
They discovered a few myths and facts that may have you second-guessing your own thoughts on attractiveness. For example, have you ever heard of the golden ratio? Ancient Greeks believed beauty was represented by a ratio of 1:1.618. So whether that proportion is in art or architecture or even your face, some people might think that’s what makes things attractive.
However, Lee and Pallet have found in their experiments 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 makes our face look attractive.
Because of this facial ratio, a simple haircut can make you look like a supermodel overnight. How exactly? Well, if it changes the optimal ratio of your face. See, 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. Got it? But what about extremely attractive people? Do they kind of step outside the norm?
The more average a face is, the better looking the face is. Basically 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. And because of that we actually have in our head a representation of the average of the face. So there’s something we have genetically that’s driving us to prefer to look at something that’s average.
Forming an average like that is actually beneficial in terms of your ability to process information, because it makes it easier to encode that information.
They also mentioned there’s yet another factor behind how attractiveness works. See, we have what’s called sexual dimorphic cues. They make us more attractive to the opposite sex — for women, this means our feminine traits like bigger eyes and fuller lips.
By no means am I a member of the beauty Olympics but often being described as beautiful by others, I couldn’t help but wonder, are my experiences influenced by the way I look.
I believe that the way I look has been an advantage and at times a disadvantage. But the so-called privileges—those I’ve never really noticed—before now. Free drinks, free rides, smiles, politeness, and the invites to places… I took these for granted and I certainly never attributed them to the way I look.
Now I can concede, that it might be in part due to the privilege of being perceived as “good looking”. However, there are some in the pretty people club who complain that being pretty comes with its trials too.
Pretty people are often discredited. People assume that you have gotten to where you are because you screwed your way there. Therefore they ignore your other positive attributes and characteristics such as, your ambition, drive, determination, hard work and expertise.
They are seen as a sexual conquest. Attractive women are actively pursued by men who view them as an easy hookup or sexual conquest. There are men who will lie or give the impression that they have slept with you just to earn bragging rights.
Pressure to please
There is a pressure to look good all the time. When you are thought to be pretty, there is a pressure to always meet the expectation of what others expect you to look like.
Jealousy of others
Some people automatically assume that you are conceited, entitled and a list of other narcissistic traits. There are others who due to their own jealousy will try to undermine and discredit you.
On the other hand there are some cool benefits to being attractive.
In many situations we automatically defer to beauty, assuming that along with beauty come all sorts of other positive characteristics. We have a tendency to think beautiful people are funnier, friendlier, more sociable, sexually warmer, more interesting, poised and even more exciting. These are examples of the so-called ‘halo effect’.
There’s a whole stack of research on mate selection and attractiveness. You won’t find the headline result at all surprising: on pure looks alone we prefer partners who are more beautiful.
Good-looking people make better persuaders. This may be because attractive people tend to be better communicators and possess more confidence or just because we believe in beauty. Whatever the reason, beauty can persuade us to change our minds.
Not surprisingly, given all the above advantages, good-looking people also have higher self-esteem. What with all the extra attention, is it any wonder they think better of themselves than their less fortunate peers?
Sounds like the pretty gang is where it’s at! But in conclusion, let me just say that image is powerful but also, image is superficial. In the end there are qualities that will take you further than beauty ever can. A good education, intelligence and work ethic will take you further in the work place than the arch of your brows and the hue of your lips. Compassion and empathy brings more comfort than a pretty face in times of sadness… The ability to make others feel valued and important also known as charisma is way more valuable than fleeting beauty in the school of life.
By Thamar Jones