Have you ever wondered what makes you more attracted to one person over another? What if I told you it’s about more than just your personal preference? In fact, your romantic inclinations might actually be rooted in science and natural selection.
Seductiveness. Allure. Magnetism. All of these qualities are based on evolution. If you don’t believe me, read on to discover which facial features make human beings appear more attractive, and why that might be.
Scientists have generally found facial symmetry to be perceived as more attractive by the opposite sex. As to why this is the case, in evolutionary terms, symmetrical faces are generally associated with good health and reproductive quality. Having a face that developed in a symmetrical way could show you have “good genes,” because you developed more successfully in the face of your environment. Meanwhile, some studies have found that you don’t want to be too symmetrical. In fact, you don’t want to be too anything…
…That’s because another facial feature that makes you look more attractive is being average. No, unfortunately, average here doesn’t mean “mediocre,” but rather the mathematical average of most people’s features. In other words, averageness refers to how closely a face resembles the majority of other faces within a population. Average faces—as opposed to faces with unique or strong features—tend to be perceived as more attractive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, human beings are attracted to the familiar. One study, published in the journal Human Nature, argued that average faces are preferred because they possess a more diverse set of genes, which is often a genetic advantage in fighting off illnesses and parasites.
Case and point: Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Toronto in Canada discovered certain ratios that make women appear more beautiful. To name a few, the scientists found that women are most attractive when the distance between the centers of a woman’s eyes are just under half of the width of the face, and the distance between a woman’s eyes and mouth are just over one-third the height of her face. Both those distances just about matched the population average!
Remember that thing I said above about familiarity? Well, it doesn’t end with just averageness. According to research reported in the July 2010 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, we are attracted to people who resemble our parents or ourselves. That which is recognizable and well-known proves again to be most desirable to human beings.
More feminine, or more masculine
The term facial dimorphism refers to the degree to which a face appears classically feminine (such as thicker lips, round cheeks, higher eyebrows) or masculine (such as a strong jawline and deep-set eyes). Ever wondered why you care so much about Zac Efron’s bone structure? It could be because you can recognize his secondary sexual characteristics in his face.
Exceptionally feminine and masculine features in adult human faces reflect the development of their secondary sexual characteristics that occur during puberty. These face shape differences, in part, arise because of the action of hormones. For example, higher testosterone levels have been linked to larger jawbones, more prominent cheekbones, and thinner cheeks. That means that people who look more classically feminine or masculine are more ready for reproduction.