Researchers discover new 'golden ratios' for female facial beauty

Dec 16, 2009
Subjects were shown faces with the same features but with different distances between the eyes and between the eyes and mouth. Faces with an average length or width ratio - which were chosen as most attractive - are framed in black. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Pallett, UC San Diego.)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the relationship of the eyes and mouth of the beholden. The distance between a woman's eyes and the distance between her eyes and her mouth are key factors in determining how attractive she is to others, according to new psychology research from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Toronto.

Pamela Pallett and Stephen Link of UC San Diego and Kang Lee of the University of Toronto tested the existence of an ideal arrangement. They successfully identified the optimal relation between the eyes, the mouth and the edge of the face for individual beauty.

In four separate experiments, the researchers asked university students to make paired comparisons of attractiveness between female with identical facial features but different eye-mouth distances and different distances between the eyes.

They discovered two "golden ratios," one for length and one for width. Female faces were judged more attractive when the vertical distance between their eyes and the mouth was approximately 36 percent of the face's length, and the horizontal distance between their eyes was approximately 46 percent of the face's width.

Interestingly, these proportions correspond with those of an average face.

"People have tried and failed to find these ratios since antiquity. The ancient Greeks found what they believed was a 'golden ratio' - also known as 'phi' or the 'divine proportion' - and used it in their architecture and art. Some even suggest that Leonardo Da Vinci used the golden ratio when painting his 'Mona Lisa.' But there was never any proof that the golden ratio was special. As it turns out, it isn't. Instead of phi, we showed that average distances between the eyes, mouth and face contour form the true golden ratios," said Pallett, a post-doctoral fellow in at UC San Diego and also an alumna of the department.

"We already know that different facial features make a female face attractive - large eyes, for example, or full lips," said Lee, a professor at University of Toronto and the director of the Institute of Child Study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. "Our study conclusively proves that the structure of faces - the relation between our face contour and the eyes, mouth and nose - also contributes to our perception of facial attractiveness. Our finding also explains why sometimes an attractive person looks unattractive or vice versa after a haircut, because hairdos change the ratios."

The researchers suggest that the perception of facial attractiveness is a result of a cognitive averaging process by which people take in all the faces they see and average them to get an ideal width ratio and an ideal length ratio. They also posit that "averageness" (like symmetry) is a proxy for health, and that we may be predisposed by biology and evolution to find average faces attractive.

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More information: The research is published by the journal Vision Research.

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User comments : 14

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Corban
1.3 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2009
This must be proven by artificially generating faces based off these ratios to check their predictive power. If, like the new Stradivarius violin made from moldy wood, the new is demonstrably better than the old, then we've got a winner
jimbo92107
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 16, 2009
I wonder if this is the psychological underpinning for bigotry. In a social environment dominated by one color and set of facial features, those falling far outside the "average" in any way (color, proportions, accent, behavior, clothing, apparent affluence) risk being interpreted as unattractive.
mysticshakra
Dec 16, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Donutz
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2009

Beauty is a tangible, measurable and OBJECTIVE quality.


Logically, then, if two people disagree on what is beautiful, one of them must be objectively wrong based on something more than argument by authority. It'd be interesting to see you support this statement.
gmurphy
not rated yet Dec 16, 2009
Donutz, certainly, let me fetch my calipers
Paradox
3 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2009
Interestingly, these proportions correspond with those of an average face.


There was a study done already that found that what an individual perceived as beauty is the average of the faces we see. If this is true then standard image of beauty would change over time, and so would these "Golden Ratios".
For instance look at some pictures of "beautiful" women of the 1900's. Most are not what we would call "Beautiful".
designmemetic
3 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2009
Isn't there an existing theory that indicates small distortions in any human form will make it appear unattractive? If they used a computer to artificially change the form of a natural face the transformation would count according to this theory and explain the results. Without further support and details, the article conclusions seem like a reach. Also, challenging the golden ratio so casually is suspect. It's an extraordinary claim to change the golden ratio and extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.
ArtflDgr
3 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2009
how bout this as an alternate theory. when a persons looks are most average the distance between an ideal that a person wants and the average persons looks is smallest.

given that people tend to bend their perceptions a bit, such an average ends up being closer to a mental ideal than can actually be found.

another person not closer to that average will mismatch a persons ideal more than a person with a perfect average.
EarthlingX
3 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2009
Beauty is in the eye of beholder. It is subjective, even when you can measure it.
Normal faces are 'beautiful' because they are known, safe, not unknown, dangerous.
My guess is, that this finds just tell us something about now, more than about beauty.
Going
5 / 5 (1) Dec 17, 2009
So we could build software that measures the facial ratios of say people on dating sites and matches them to others according to attractiveness. I read somewhere that relationships in which the couple are rated of equal attractiveness , on whatever scale, have the most chance of success.
Donutz
Dec 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) Dec 17, 2009
This study has been done so many times that having yet another study is not only meaningless but a ridiculous waste of the taxpayers money.
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2009
In four separate experiments, the researchers asked university students
Of which universities? In which countries? What cultural backgrounds did these students have?
We cannot come to universal conclusions if our results are based on the opinion of a very small and by no means representative minority.
flaredone
not rated yet Dec 20, 2009
Well, such study brings me a craniometry, phrenology and eugenics on the mind...
superhuman
4 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2009
Interestingly, these proportions correspond with those of an average face.

Yes, this has been shown before.

Obviously this only holds for facial features, a similar study on the body image is bound to reach an opposite conclusion.
Birger
not rated yet Dec 21, 2009
I am concerned that plastic surgeons will misuse this finding to motivate costly and possibly risky surgery to alter these proportions of a face -unlike skin surgery, this would require re-shaping bone.