A new scientific report has just confirmed what philosophers and artists have been saying for ages – beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. The human family is divided on many issues and one that probably tops the list is the definition of beauty and what constitutes it from an aesthetic point of view.
Researchers have now brought forth a scientific dimension to the ongoing, never-ending debate, one that firmly concludes that beauty in individuals cannot be attributed to genes and its perception largely depends on personal experiences and preferences.
The joint leaders of the project, Laura Germine of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University along with Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College, have released a statement which concludes the scientific consensus on the matter:
“We estimate that an individual’s aesthetic preferences for faces agree about 50 percent, and disagree about 50 percent. […] This fits with the common intuition that on the one hand, fashion models can make a fortune with their good looks, while on the other hand, friends can endlessly debate about who is attractive and who is not.”
But there is also agreement that certain features can be regarded as universal factors in determining some features of aesthetic beauty in each person. Germine and Wilmer have said that almost all individuals tend to be attracted towards individuals with symmetric faces, but apart from this sole agreement, everyone has different preferences and standards in identifying physical beauty.
The experiment was carried out by studying the face preferences of 35,000 volunteers. Researchers have then used the results to develop a highly efficient and effective test of the uniqueness of an individual’s face preferences. They then proceeded to gain results from the preferences of 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-sex, non-identical twins by having them rate the attractiveness of 200 faces.
It was necessary to test answers from both identical and non-identical twins in order to properly estimate the contributions of genes and environment in defining standards of beauty. At the end of the experiment, it was concluded that genes play a miniscule role in defining one’s standards of beauty, which are largely based on personal experiences and developments.
This research is more than just a reassurance of age-old philosophical conclusions however. According to Germine and Wilmer, the new data “provides a novel window into the evolution and architecture of the social brain.” It offers valuable insight into our own human nature and how individuals develop to perceive the beauty of the world through different lenses.
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