Britain's Most Beautiful Face ?
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Published on May 10, 2012
According to Britain, this 18-year-old girl named Florence Colgate has the UK's most beautiful face as she won a "Britain's Most Naturally Beautiful Face" contest recently. What do you think?
Look at the people around you until you find someone attractive. Try to describe the physical characteristics that make their face so attractive. Stuck for words? British scientists now have the answers.
Everyone agrees on whether a face is attractive; men and women agree, people from different cultures agree, newborn babies and sometimes even other species agree. How symmetrical a face is determines the degree of attraction. But detecting symmetry and preferring symmetry require two different mechanisms in the brain, according to a report published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
"A person's ability to detect symmetry - an attractive trait - does not predict how much they prefer it," said lead author of the study Anthony Little from the University of Liverpool in England. This "may help explain why it is difficult to articulate exactly why we like certain faces".
The study's results may also go some way to resolving an ongoing scientific debate on facial symmetry, strongly supporting one of two rival theories about the basis for our preferences.
According to the first theory, humans evolved a preference for symmetry to help them select good mates. In humans, asymmetries in the body increase with inbreeding, premature birth, psychosis and mental retardation, according to a 1991 study by Gregory Livshits and colleagues. Symmetry also reflects a person's ability to cope with environmental stress during development. So by this theory, preference for a symmetrical mate is more likely to lead to strong children.
The second theory is based on how our brains function. Something symmetrical puts less strain on the brain than something asymmetrical. Hence symmetrical faces are simply easier to look at. This preference extends beyond faces; humans in general prefer symmetry in everyday objects and decorative art as well.
The fact that symmetry preference is separate from our ability to perceive symmetry supports the first theory. Little said it "appears indicative of special evolved mechanisms for preferences". The second theory "that preferences are by-products of other systems, particularly detection and recognition systems ... is not supported here," he said.
Little performed his experiment over the Internet. Thirty pairs of images were shown to participants, each pair consisting of an original image and a modified, symmetrical version of that image. Participants had to choose which face was more attractive.
After rating attractiveness, the images were shown again. This time participants had to choose the most symmetrical image. While people differed in their ability to detect symmetry, there was no relationship between this ability and a preference for symmetrical faces.
According to Little, if your face is helplessly asymmetrical, this isn't necessarily reason to give up hope. In addition to symmetry, attraction is also composed of averageness, femininity or masculinity, a pleasant expression, youthfulness and good grooming.
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