The magic for­mula

Friday - - Society -

The idea that traits we per­ceive as beau­ti­ful are in­dica­tive of health and healthy off­spring is also used to ex­plain why we are most at­tracted to mates who have sym­met­ri­cal faces.

The hu­man foe­tus is de­signed to grow in the womb in two equal parts around the cen­tral axis of the spine. Th­ese parts should, in the­ory, be iden­ti­cal but tiny dif­fer­ences, which can be caused by a range of fac­tors in­clud­ing ge­netic ab­nor­mal­i­ties and in­fec­tion, cause the two sides to de­velop sub­tle dif­fer­ences.

When viewed in a fully grown hu­man, it’s be­lieved we sub­con­sciously reg­is­ter th­ese minute dif­fer­ences and in­ter­pret them as indi­ca­tions of un­der­ly­ing ge­netic prob­lems. Our pre­dis­po­si­tion to find sym­met­ri­cal faces at­trac­tive is a sub­con­scious re­sponse to fun­da­men­tal clues about ge­netic health.

It seems that re­oc­cur­ring math­e­mat­i­cal for­mu­las crop up reg­u­larly in stud­ies on beauty. In Cal­i­for­nia, plas­tic sur­geon Dr Stephen Mar­quardt claims that the for­mula of beauty is a fig­ure known as the ‘golden ra­tio’ rep­re­sented by the Greek let­ter phi – 1.618.

He be­lieves it crops up all over the ideal hu­man face. He dis­cov­ered that peo­ple deemed beau­ti­ful had mouths that were 1.618 times wider than the length of their noses, nos­trils 1.618 times wider than the tips of their noses and teeth 1.618 times wider than their height.

Ar­guably, this num­ber ap­pears in more places in art, mu­sic and na­ture than any other ex­cept pi (3.142). Com­poser Claude De­bussy used it in his mu­sic and Le Cor­bus­ier in his ar­chi­tec­ture. There are claims the num­ber was used by Leonardo da Vinci in the paint­ing of the Mona Lisa; by the Greeks in build­ing the Parthenon; and by an­cient Egyp­tians in the con­struc­tion of the Great Pyra­mid of Khufu.

Other re­search has found dif­fer­ent for­mu­las for ideal fa­cial fea­tures. Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Toronto found that fe­male faces were judged most at­trac­tive when the dis­tance be­tween the eyes and the mouth was roughly 36 per cent of the over­all length of the face, and when the dis­tance be­tween the eyes was around 46 per cent of the face’s width.

In a se­ries of stud­ies, stu­dents were asked to com­pare colour photographs of women’s faces. In one pho­to­graph the ver­ti­cal dis­tance be­tween the eyes and mouth and the hor­i­zon­tal dis­tance be­tween the eyes had been doc­tored. The par­tic­i­pants were asked to se­lect the face they found most at­trac­tive. In each ex­per­i­ment the face dis­play­ing the 36/46 per cent ra­tios was deemed most at­trac­tive.

It is be­lieved that th­ese fig­ures rep­re­sent a uni­ver­sal av­er­age and that we cog­ni­tively as­sess all of the faces we en­counter on a daily ba­sis and grav­i­tate to­ward the ones dis­play­ing fea­tures near­est to this av­er­age.

“We al­ready know that dif­fer­ent fa­cial fea­tures make a fe­male face at­trac­tive such as

The magic 70 per cent for­mula ap­plies to some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful women such as Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, ac­tress Jes­sica Alba and supermodel Kate Moss

large eyes or full lips,” says Pro­fes­sor Kang Lee, one of the lead re­searchers. “The study proves that the struc­ture of faces also con­trib­utes to our per­cep­tion of fa­cial at­trac­tive­ness.”

The good news for those who do not pos­sess the magic ra­tio how­ever, is that there are plenty of ex­cep­tions to the rule.

For ex­am­ple, ac­tress An­gelina Jolie dif­fers from the clas­sic ra­tio by a few per­cent­age points. The study also dis­cov­ered that it was

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