As the old saying goes, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ But research by the University of St Andrews suggests what we may find attactive is influenced by the faces around us.
According to researchers, people prefer mates with the same characteristics as those they are most familiar with.
In a new study published on Thursday by the Human Nature journal, researchers examined how the appearance of familiar faces breeds attraction.
The study entailed asking men and women in different areas which counterparts they found the most attractive from digital-manipulated face pairs. Images of the subjects who took part in the study were then rated online by participants in a different country.
Researchers Carlota Batres, Mallini Kannan and David Perrett concluded that facial characteristics common to a person’s locality were considered to be the most attractive to them.
Dr Carlota Batres, who led the research, said, “In a world where it is said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, it might actually be that ‘beauty is in the faces of those we behold’, since we grow to like those around us.”
Further research will be needed to examine just how far this effect can extend, such as whether binge watching a specific show could lead us to prefer people who look like those actors, or whether high exposure to politicians’ faces could also influence our preferences.
Professor David Perrett, who runs the Perception Lab at St Andrews, added, “Future research that examines beauty ideals between populations should also examine the facial characteristics that make up such populations.”