Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Eye of the Beholder...and of the Beholdee

It has long been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is surely one of the most perceptive of observations. We often ask ourselves what Joe sees in Jane, or Jane in Joe...but as long as each finds the other attractive, for whatever reason, that's fine.

But can the "beauty quotient" of a person be mathematically measured?

It apparently can, according to this article from Yahoo News of December 18th: Beauty is Between Eyes, Mouth of the Beholden.

The article discusses the result of studies of white women conducted by US and Canadian researchers which concluded that beauty is less in the eye of the beholder than in "the measurements between the eyes, mouth and ears of the woman being observed."

The measurements most men are thinking of when they look at an attractive woman are not usually those of the eyes, mouth, and ears, of course. But according to the research cited in the article, which used Photoshop to alter the image of the same woman by changing the distances between her facial features, there is a definite preference for a "golden ratio" governing the arrangement and symmetry of facial features. That ratio is 36 percent for the length of the maximally attractive face (that is, the ideal distance between the eyes and mouth as compared to total face length, measured from the hairline to the chin), and 46 percent for the width (where the distance between the eyes is 46 percent of total face width as measured between the inner edges of the ears). Oddly enough, those ratios correspond to the arrangement of the average human face.

Of course, you don't see men whipping out tape measures and calculators to figure out if that hottie in the bar has optimum facial feature ratios...but it's evidently a calculation we all unconsciously make when we assess the relative attractiveness of an individual. Since the 36/46 ratios represent the average, what we're apparently actually doing is looking for (and either weeding out or focusing on) those who are outside the norm.

The article noted that undesirable facial ratios can be corrected by such things as changing the hair style, and it also observed that some celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Hurley, while they are generally considered to be "beautiful," do not have facial features which reflect the golden ratio, while singer Shania Twain (also considered "beautiful"), does. Evidently, possessing features not conforming to the parameters of the golden ratio is not necessarily an impediment to success, at least in the artistic realm.

So we really are talking about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and not just in the eye ratios of the beholdee.

As for me, well, I consider myself a connoisseur of feminine pulchritude - look who I married, after all. And, like everyone else, I have my own ideas of what ratios and physical attributes make a lady particularly attractive. But it's good to remember that all those ratios are subject to immutable laws of time and gravity, and the physical attributes that looked so good at 25 are likely to look a bit different when we approach 60. Beauty is indeed both skin deep and in the eye of the beholder...

And I plan to keep on enjoying the beholding for a long time.

Have a good day, and may all your ratios be golden.

More thoughts tomorrow.



KKTSews said...

Check out the Dove campaign for real beauty. Interesting video about our expectations of beauty a la advertising photos :

Mike said...

I had to look up pulchritude - beauteousness. Either way it's hard to say. ... hey hey hey

There was an article in New Scientist that morphed all races into one face (female). I was going to post it but can't find the copy of the magazine. And the article is no good without the pictures. One day I'll find it.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I love that Dove campaign. I wish magazines would let us judge beauty. Too much airbrushing going on. How can we know what's beautiful if its been fiddled with so much.

Bilbo said...

Katherine and Andrea - I checked out the Dove's a classic. Aren't we fortunate that "truth in packaging" laws don't apply to us?

Mike - glad to help build your vocabulary. Someday, you can use it to write me that letter. And I've seen the article and picture you're talking about...I may have it somewhere in my files.