A new study has identified the “golden ratios” of female facial attractiveness—sought since the time of the ancient Greeks as the optimal values underlying physical perfection.
Turns out, they’re not all that special.
Researchers from UC San Diego and the University of Toronto conducted four separate experiments to test the existence of ideal facial feature arrangement. The researchers asked university students to make paired comparisons of attractiveness between female faces with identical facial features but different eye-mouth distances and different distances between the eyes.
They discovered two “golden ratios,” one for length and one for width. Female faces were judged more attractive when the vertical distance between their eyes and the mouth was approximately 36 percent of the face’s length, and the horizontal distance between their eyes was approximately 46 percent of the face’s width.
The findings are decidedly average. That is, they correspond with those of an average female face.
The Greeks would have been disappointed to know this, but we’ve learned a thing or two since then. From an evolutionary perspective, “averageness” and its cousin, symmetry, are proxies for health, and we may automatically seek out average proportions as a matter of biological predisposition.
More interestingly, the findings speak to the relentless calculating of our brains. The perception of facial attractiveness could be the result of a cognitive averaging process by which we take in all the faces we see and average them to get an ideal width ratio and an ideal length ratio. Of course, we’re not aware this is all going on. We just “know it when we see it.”
No doubt other factors also contribute to facial beauty (why else would so many woman pay to have skin plumping poison injected into their lips?). But when it comes to something you can’t do terribly much about–the proportions of your face–it’s all about being average, baby.