Author: Qinghao Ma
Editors: Flynn Ma and Sophia Chen
Artist: Susan Wu
It is most certain that many of us have probably thought of the question, "What makes beauty," or "What makes my face pretty?" Throughout history and among cultures, beauty standards have undergone remarkable change. At certain times, stoutness and being overweight meant that you were wealthy and influential, which resulted in being attractive. In contrast, at other times, being muscular with a lean body was the dominant standard of the beauty industry. Many features have been both celebrated and cast aside over time in various times and places in history. But is there a universal element that consistently fuels attraction across different times and cultures?
Facial symmetry — a reference to an identical match in size, location, shape, and arrangement of each facial feature, has been one of the most sought-after qualities in friendships and relationships, but why? The Perceptual Bias theory suggests that the human visual system could potentially be "hard-wired" in a way that favors symmetrical stimuli over asymmetrical ones. As a result of this bias, we can also infer that humans prefer symmetrical things other than just facial features, such as muscle composition and body composition ratios.
Another possible theory, the Evolutionary Advantage Theory, suggests that people with a symmetrical face symbolize good health, good genes, and a robust immune system. This is because as we develop and age, diseases, infections, and parasites cause slight changes in our appearance. Anything less than complete symmetry most likely correlates with some dysfunction, genetics, illness, or other factors. A study from Science Direct supports this theory by showing that digitally altered photographs of female subjects, varying between symmetrical and asymmetrical, were perceived as more attractive and healthier when displayed with greater symmetry. Digital photographs of female subjects were separated into two groups: a symmetrical group and an asymmetrical group. Then, they would get tested/compared, and results show that the more symmetrical photos were more or less more attractive and more healthy. The bottom line is, even if a particular gene gets expressed a little too much or a little too low, slightly in the wrong place, or expressed a bit early or late, the skin tissues on one side of your face will take a slightly different shape and pattern than the other. Even small fluctuations can lead to macro-asymmetry when we can't detect our flaws with the naked eye(but could be aware of subconsciously). Thus, those with a more symmetrical face are deemed healthier and fitter than the rest.
While symmetrical faces are preferred, perfectly symmetrical facial features give the opposite effect. According to the Cole Aesthetic Center, only 2% of the world's population possesses a perfectly symmetrical face. Despite the fact that many people long for a symmetrical face, complete symmetry can appear unusual and discomforting to many others. On the other hand, extreme facial asymmetry is not typically considered to be attractive. Most people prefer a near-perfect look, much like models in newspaper magazines.
All in all, facial symmetry is preferred but not necessary. Extremes on either end, such as complete symmetry or extreme asymmetry, may not be ideal. Fortunately, there is a middle ground for attraction, which bodes well for the rest of us. It is crucial to remember that everyone possesses unique features, and these distinctive characteristics make each individual special.
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