Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder & our perception is environment dependent

Have you heard “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” before? To some extent it is true. A new study has finally revealed why the perception of beauty differs from one individual to another. The study, published in the journal Current Biology on October 1, has suggested that one’s idea of other individuals’ attractiveness is primarily influenced by his or her own experiences.

The findings of the said study forced researchers to come to the conclusion that an individual’s environment is more responsible for shaping the kind of people he/she would find attractive than his/her genes.

Psychiatric researcher Laura Germine, a representative of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said that since a long time we have been using the adage “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. Germine, who is the lead author of this new study, added that although the adage is very old, scientific study on the idea has been quite limited.

According to Germine, the majority of the studies on perception of beauty conducted to date have focused on determining the characteristics people tend to find attractive in the faces of other individuals. For instance, she said that previous studies have shown that symmetrical faces are usually the more attractive ones.

This new study was conducted on 214 sets of fraternal twins (twins sharing 50% of DNA) and 547 sets of identical twins (twins with identical DNA), each of whom was listed on the Australian Twin Registry. The above-mentioned twins were asked to look as 102 female faces and 98 male faces and rate them based on how attractive they felt the faces were. Those ratings were then used by the researchers for coming up with “individual preference scores”.

Individual preference scores were actually a measurement of the difference between the ratings given by each participant from the average ratings (the average of the rating given by all participants) received by the faces.

During the study’s first part, researchers found that when they pick two participants randomly, they view about attractiveness matches on 48% occasions and didn’t match on 52% occasions.

Next, the researchers tried to find out which is a stronger influence on an individual’s perception of attractiveness, his/her genes or environment. Basically, they wanted to find out what led to the 52% disagreement during the study’s initial part.

Upon comparing, the researchers found that the preferences of identical twins didn’t have more similarity with each other than that of the fraternal twins. This proves that the role of the environment is bigger. If the preferences of the identical twins were more similar than that of the fraternal twins, it would mean that genes play a bigger role.