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Beauty- How Does One Define it?

“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships”, said Christopher Marlowe while describing the immortal beauty of Helen of Troy. Her beauty led to the ferocious Trojan war. So, what exactly amounts to beauty? Is there any universal definition of it or is it a matter of personal preference? Let us examine some facts about beauty.
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The Greek Concept of Beauty
Plato, one of the most profound Greek philosophers, spent a great deal of thought and time on the concept of beauty. He called it “golden proportions” where the width of a perfect face should be two-thirds of the length and the nose should not be longer than the distance between the eyes. In this way, the Greeks were able to establish that a good proportion is physically attractive to humans.

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The Modern Concept of Beauty
Moving a step ahead from our ancestors, the contemporary researchers believe that beauty is not just about proportions but about symmetry between the right side and the left side of the face. According to a study, the Hollywood celebrity with the highest symmetry is Cate Blanchett. In a startling observation, it was found that symmetry is desirable even among animals. For instance, a female zebra is more likely to get attracted to a male with a symmetrically colored leg bands. Female swallows would mate with male swallows with symmetric tails.

Why is symmetry desirable?
A study was conducted by the University of Louisville where Latinos, Asians and Whites were shown the pictures of different individuals. All these people from 13 different countries had similar notion as to what they consider attractive. They all chose symmetry over asymmetry. The reasons behind such preference is that:

  • symmetric people have a greater mate-value
  • symmetry is associated with stronger immune system and robust genes
  • more likelihood of the off-springs to survive

The study proved that standard of beauty is universal.

Beauty and the mate
Psychological research suggests that humans choose their mates with whom they share similar levels of beauty and genes. In “Symmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness” by David Parrett, it is said that symmetry may act as a mark of superior genetic quality and is desired during the selection of the mate in a variety of species, including humans. However, this might not be completely true as the other qualities like kindness, personality, success of the partner also play a vital role in selecting a mate.

Are beautiful people more successful?
According to the general notion, attractive people are more successful. However, this was refuted by Elliot Aronson, social psychologist at the Stanford University, who feels that a person’s confident self-perception, along with the positive feedback from others, might be an important reason for the success of attractive people. The success has more to do with the confidence rather than the beauty.

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