Years of research have confirmed that, in general, your face is the most important factor in how attractive people find you. But how do you quantify facial attractiveness? In a study published in PLOS One entitled “Facial Features: What Women Perceive as Attractive and What Men Consider Attractive,” researchers from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain conducted a behavioral study to find out what women find attractive in their own faces and what men find attractive in women’s faces.
They specifically looked at four factors and how these factors interact to see how they impact how attractive people find a face:
- facial fluctuating asymmetry: “facial, what now?!” While this term may sound intimidating, it just means how symmetrical your face is if you draw a line down your nose, with people frequently seeing more symmetrical faces as more attractive.
- facial averageness: this one is easy enough, how close an individual face is to the average of that particular culture, with more average faces being generally more attractive.
- facial sexual dimorphism: In women, this refers to how traditionally feminine the facial features are such as a small chin or a higher cheekbone.
- facial maturity: This just refers to facial features associated with age, such as wrinkles around the eyes or loose skin, with these signs of age being associated with lower ratings of attractiveness, although notable exceptions exist even within this study.
These individual features have been studied before, but the new thing this study was able to do is look at how these features interact, such as how attractive we would consider a woman’s face that is highly symmetrical, but far away from the average face for that culture?
To answer these questions, the researchers had women rate the attractiveness of their own faces as well as a group of men rate the attractiveness of their faces. They also had independent measures taken of all four of the facial factors.
They found that the strongest factor in how women rated their own attractiveness was actually their age, with women feeling they were more attractive as they got older. They also found that those with more asymmetrical faces perceived themselves as less attractive. Neither averageness or femininity affected how the women felt about their attractiveness.
When men rated the women’s faces, they found that the most attractive faces were low in facial maturity and asymmetry, and also those that were the closest to the average of the culture. These go along with typical findings of studies of facial attraction with the exception of no finding for the femininity of the faces.
Together, these findings point out how when you consider multiple factors, you get a more complete picture of what really matters. You also see how the importance of factors really do lie in the eye of the beholder