Physical attractiveness is rated differently even by identical twins, which suggests that environmental factors trump genetics when it comes to defining beauty. This was the conclusion of a new study, published on October 1 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
Research was conducted on 547 sets of identical twins (with identical DNA) and 214 sets of fraternal twins (with non-identical DNA) from the Australian Twin Registry.
The subjects were asked to look at 102 female faces and 98 male faces, and assign grades to them, depending on how physically attractive each person was to them.
Experts then aggregated these results, in order to establish “individual preference scores” which measured the extent to which each personalized rating differed from the overall average score.
In the initial stage of the trial, it was determined that when selecting 2 participants arbitrarily, there was a 52% probability that they would disagree on the physical attractiveness of a face.
The two subjects were in agreement on 48% of the occasions, which shows that appearing beautiful to someone is usually hit-or-miss.
More often than not, there is great dissent when judging aesthetics, and a person may look incredibly attractive to someone, and at the same time be considered awfully plain by someone else.
The second part of the research was meant to establish if preferences are influenced by the environment, or by genetic factors.
Researchers analyzed differences between ratings given by identical twins, and also compared variations encountered in fraternal twins. It was concluded that even identical twins have dissonant views on beauty, and they don’t display more similar taste than their counterparts.
Therefore, it appears that genetics don’t play a role in changing people’s perception of physical attractiveness. Environment is much more important in determining the features that are deemed pleasant or not, accounting for 78% of the differences in perception.
Individuals develop their own taste when it comes to beauty, and their personal perception tends to be distorted by previous experiences, relationships, media exposure etc.
For example, if a particular type of facial structure is associated with a pleasurable memory, then another person who shares those features will also appear attractive to the observer.
“From an evolutionary standpoint it might be advantageous, because you learn from your own specific environment which faces to pair with positive information”, explained Laura Germine, co-author of the study and psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Although this idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder has long been ingrained in people’s minds, little research had been conducted in this field. The majority of studies focus on particular elements of physical attractiveness, such as body-to-waist ratio or facial symmetry.
Now however, it appears science has finally proven that personal taste varies significantly, and is often swayed by each individual’s circumstances and experiences.
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