In ancient Greece, Helen of Troy, the instigator of the Trojan War, was the paragon of beauty, exuding a physical brilliance that would put Cindy Crawford to shame. Indeed, she was the toast of Athens, celebrated not for her kindness or her intellect, but for her physical perfection. But why did the Greek men find Helen, and other beautiful women, so intoxicating?
In an attempt to answer this question, the philosophers of the day devoted a great deal of time to this conundrum. Plato wrote of so-called “golden proportions,” in which, amongst other things, the width of an ideal face would be two-thirds its length, while a nose would be no longer than the distance between the eyes. Plato’s golden proportions, however, haven’t quite held up to the rigors of modern psychological and biological research — though there is credence in the ancient Greeks’ attempts to determine a fundamental symmetry that humans find attractive.
Symmetry is attractive to the human eye
Today, this symmetry has been scientifically proven to be inherently attractive to the human eye. It has been defined not with proportions, but rather with similarity between the left and right sides of the face Thus, the Greeks were only partially correct. By applying the stringent conditions of the scientific method, researchers now believe symmetry is the answer the Greeks were looking for.
Babies spend more time staring at pictures of symmetric individuals than they do at photos of asymmetric ones. Moreover, when several faces are averaged to create a composite — thus covering up the asymmetries that any one individual may have — a panel of judges deemed the composite more attractive than the individual pictures. Read the rest of this entry »