What makes someone attractive?
Beauty is not always specific or easy to define – and we find people attractive for many different reasons.
We choose our partners based on a multitude of factors. The reasons for finding someone attractive or not DO vary tremendously from person to person. Additionally, if you ask people for their definitions of beauty – you’ll tend to hear a lot of variance in their answers. But scientists have discovered some of the scientific ‘rules’ about what is considered beautiful, structurally, across different cultures and many generations.
Science shows us that we can actually analyze – or quantify – human perceptions of beauty.
1. The Golden ratio – The elusive golden ratio has held steady in studies, but may not be the highest drawcard for beauty according to evolving research
Across all cultures, the leading indicator of a person’s beauty is often their face – at least, for most observers, though certainly not all. And not everyone has visual capacity so this is not something that can be generalised across all individuals.
That noted, the best-known global acceptance of what’s considered ‘facial beauty’ is the golden ratio. It simply means that a beautiful face is considered aesthetically appealing because it has certain proportions.
- With the golden ratio, the distance between your eyes and mouth – for optimal appeal across cultures – might be about 36 percent of the length of your face.
- Also, the distance between your eyes might be 46 percent of the width of your face for greatest visual appeal
But one study showed that having a proportional face does NOT always equal beauty.
During the study, an evaluation jury analyzed the faces of 400 participants. They used a computer algorithm based on the golden ratio to assess the features and the ratings or evaluations of beauty across participants. Next, they classified them into two groups, rating them as either attractive or not attractive.
- After that, the organisers of the study randomly chose a group of 60 participants.
- They asked them to look at the pictures and to make a personal classification.
The results were surprising to some. Most of the pictures that the participants chose were different from the golden ratio.
Whilst this is still debated, and more research needs to be done, it essentially pointed to the concept that a face does NOT depend on the golden ratio to be considered beautiful or aesthetically appealing.
2. What are our perceptions of facial beauty?
Symmetry – Beauty is symmetry
- A common conception of beauty is the balance of the two halves of the face – or of the body.
- We often feel attracted to people who have proportional and symmetrical features.
- There is a lot more to it, of course, but this is a basic generalisation that is supported by a large amount of research across the globe.
- A possible explanation for this tendency has to do with our genetics, as well as genetics mixed with cultural ideals.
So what’s the scenario about our Genetics and our perceptions of beauty?
During a human’s lifetime, cells divide, continuously. If these divisions spawned identical cells, it could technically speak, result in a very balanced body.
But mutations and environmental factors hinder these divisions. And at some level, our brains think this could mean imbalances will impact longevity or other best-survival genes that we might pass along to the next generation.
That is why we perceive as more attractive the people who have managed to keep this symmetry. Symmetry is also strongly linked, at least in our brains, with partners that have strong immune systems.
This way, we perceive people with a great deal of symmetry in their bodies or faces as able to provide better genes to our potential offspring (if the relationship goes that far, that is – and if we’re intent on having offspring).
At the end of the day, genetic drives for reproduction still drive our preferences and determine, to some extent, what we find appealing. It changes, of course, over time – but not as much as we might think.
3. Self Bias – Self Enhancement Bias: You may be less beautiful than you see yourself
A recent study indicated that we tend to think of ourselves to look more attractive than we are. The organisers of the survey took photos of the participants. Then, they modified the photos to look more beautiful.
Next, they showed the participants both the original and edited pictures of themselves. The participants tended to choose the enhanced image versions of themselves. They were also shown pictures of the other co-participants, whom they had met 3 weeks before.
In that scenario, participants tended to choose the unmodified variants.
We call this the “self-enhancement bias.”
This happens when you overestimate YOUR qualities whilst somehow underestimating those of other people.
Of course, this is an extreme view of oneself (although most people have it just mildly).
And there is the opposite scenario, where you may view yourself as LESS attractive than how other people see you. Luckily, self-esteem problems including body dysmorphia or low self-esteem can often be overcome with great counselling or a combination of counselling, exercise and some medical supplement treatments.
Plastic Surgery is also an option when a particular facial feature or correctable body proportion is impacting one’s confidence levels or reducing their self-esteem
And, for people who suffer from shyness or a lack of confidence due to having a disproportionate feature or an imbalance (or a facial injury, broken nose or facial scars or even tuberous breasts or man boobs), they can also opt for plastic surgery.
Most consumer sites indicate high satisfaction rates with a number of procedures – this is likely because feeling better about oneself gives stronger inner confidence, and the two combined – inner and outer confidence – result in attractive energy in social situations.
So with appearance being important not just to others but to ourselves in terms of how we view ourselves and how comfortable we are in front of the ubiquitous camera these days – sometimes that nose reshaping surgery or a body contouring procedure such as a tummy tuck or arm lift, can give us a bit of external confidence that helps BOOST our internal confidence levels and leaves us feeling better – or more engaging – in social situations.
4. Waist to Hip Ratio – The infamous waist-hip ratio – does it still have an impact?
An important factor in establishing a person’s beauty is the waist-hip ratio, for women the standard is a smaller waist and larger bust and hips, and for men, narrow hips with a v-shaped chest.
Scientists also correlate waist-hip proportions (the WHR) with fertility and perceptions of good health. Studies show that women with a waist-to-hip ratio of about 0.7 ARE less prone to some diseases.
Men with a waist-hip ratio of 0.9 also seem to have improved chances of fertility and overall social well-being according to research measurement tools.
These days, you can often achieve a great body shape through physical exercise, but not always – and not if your weight has fluctuated greatly.
There’s sometimes a desire for body shaping after weight loss – to help get the contours back to what is more appealing to yourself and others, innately, by removing excess skin and fat stores that are resistant to being shifted through diet and exercise.
5. External Appearance and Skin – A gorgeous looking face: will it get you far?
Vanity always gets a negative rap. However, healthy self-esteem means wanting to look your best, feel your best and do your best (for most people).
There is a common perception that, the nicer you look, the more you’re likely to get ahead in your life.
This DOES seem to be true.
According to studies, people who are considered beautiful or attractive tend to have bigger revenues and career choices.
Aesthetically appealing individuals also have more choices in romantic partners as well as business partners. They may also be treated with more attention and respect than people who are considered less attractive (as a general rule only and not applicable to everyone or every situation). This is why some people who are ageing, who were very attractive and got a lot of attention when they were younger, feel ‘increasingly invisible’ as they get older and have less social attention.
This is one of the things that leave people feeling better about themselves after a rejuvenation surgery such as a facelift, skin resurfacing or eyelid lift – they look better, feel better, and may gain more social attention or improved choices in their partners and social companions.
A possible explanation comes from the idea that we innately judge a person by their external appearance.
It’s a visually based survival-oriented capacity that has primal mechanisms at its basis. It means our visually-focused brains try to evaluate others in many ways – at a primal level – long BEFORE we get close enough to them where they can potentially do us harm (or do us good).
So for most people we encounter, this FIRST impression is the precise thing we use to evaluate them – sometimes that first impression sticks with us even when we have gotten that initial evaluation very wrong. In other words, we may subconsciously evaluate someone beautiful to be GOOD or judge someone who’s less attractive as being ‘less good.’
Beauty is a number of things, then – and it DOES come with social risks as well as social rewards. For example, if you are very beautiful or have very attractive features – others might fully ignore your talents and focus ONLY on your appearance (or on certain aspects of your appearance).
Or you might feel that you must somehow live up to unrealistic beauty “standards” or become overly focused on appearance instead of being a well-rounded, balanced individual who focuses on WHOLE self-health and self-esteem.
The key is to feel confident in yourself across ALL aspects of your life, and to know that beauty is what you want to make of it – despite our genetic responses to certain traits or ‘golden ratios’.
If you’ve always felt you wanted to alter, balance or reshape a feature or a body proportion – remember that there’s a lot that can be done by a Plastic Surgeon or expert Injector to enhance your looks. Plus, there are scientific underpinnings to many facial and body enhancement surgery procedures (such as fixing a crooked nose or rejuvenating sagging jowls with a facelift or improving the hip-waist ratio with a tummy tuck after having children).
But at the end of the day, it’s what’s INSIDE and OUTSIDE that counts – and the harmony between the two.
Dr Patrick Briggs
Specialist Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in Melbourne
Dr Patrick Briggs is a Specialist Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon. Both he and his team are dedicated to excellence in patient care and are committed to treating each and every patient with respect and privacy.
Not only does he offer high-quality results he also offers natural-looking plastic and cosmetic surgery results. Furthermore, he is experienced in Breast, Body and Face Surgery having performed over 4500 Surgeries in private practice.
How can we help?
Dr Briggs’ Patient Coordinators take pleasure in assisting you with any questions when considering a plastic surgery procedure. Please call the Hawthorn East clinic in Melbourne between 8 am – 6 pm on Weekdays.
Want more information about your Procedure?
What to Bring to Your Consultation
- If you like, please bring a friend or relative to help discuss the information and your choices.
- Take a lot of notes and thoroughly examine the documents your surgeon provides.
- You may need to undress so it’s a good idea to wear simple clothes.