A team of researchers found evidences that the popular "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" saying is more than just a quotation used in beauty pageants and self-help classes, there is actually a scientific truth to it.

In a new study involving twins, it was discovered that the difference in the opinions of people whether another person is beautiful or not depends on personal experiences and hence, a common pattern of perception, even between two genetically-similar people, does not necessarily exist.

Although there are some physical characteristics such as facial symmetry, which people agree upon in terms of identifying what is attractive or not, significant points for disagreement are routinely noted. In this study, the authors investigated on the root causes of these individual preferences by involving twins, enabling them to identify the role of genetic and environmental factors in the participants' judgements.

The research, co-led by Laura Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University and Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College, initially analyzed the face preference of more than 35,000 volunteers who participated in a test found in their website. After gaining some insights from this analysis, they developed an efficient test to determine individual face preferences. The researchers then applied this to 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of fraternal twins with the same gender by asking them to grade the attractiveness of 200 faces.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that the uniqueness of each person's perception of what is attractive or not is based from personal experiences and not genes.

In previous studies involving twins and families, the participants were found to have genetically similar traits, whether it be personality, interest or skills. However, in those studies, face processing were tackled in a different light that is face recognition, and not preference.

"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," explained Germine. Possibly, this include unique experiences with their own set of friends, as well as social media.

With this, the researchers said that it is not about the neighborhood one lived in, the school one went to or the socioeconomic status of one's parents, face preference is about unique encounters, such as social interactions, exposure to the faces in social media or maybe even the face of one's first love.

According to the authors, the results of the study may provide a new angle into understanding the evolution and structure of the social brain. In future researches, they will be delving into the most essential environmental factors that influence preferences, as well as the origins of other human preferences such as music or pets.

Photo: Pierre Tourigny | Flickr

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