New research suggests beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and everybody has a different opinion of attractiveness.
Scientists agree that some aspects of attractiveness are universal and encoded in our genes, but this recent study demonstrated how everybody has their own specific "types," Cell Press reported.
"We estimate that an individual's aesthetic preferences for faces agree about 50 percent, and disagree about 50 percent, with others," wrote joint leaders of this project, Laura Germine of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University and Jeremy Wilmer of Wellesley College. "This fits with the common intuition that on the one hand, fashion models can make a fortune with their good looks, while on the other hand, friends can endlessly debate about who is attractive and who is not."
To make their findings, the researchers looked at the face preferences of over 35,000 volunteers who visited the face attractiveness test on the site TestMyBrain.org. They used this data to create a "highly efficient and effective" test of individual face preferences, and use it to compare the preferences of 547 pairs of identical twin and 214 pairs of same-sex, non-identical twins.
Past studies have shown every human trait including face preference is genetically passed down, but this new research suggests individual face preferences is based more so on experiences than genes.
"The types of environments that are important are not those that are shared by those who grow up in the same family, but are much more subtle and individual, potentially including things such as one's unique, highly personal experiences with friends or peers, as well as social and popular media," Germine said.
The findings provide a rare glimpse into the "evolution and architecture" of the social brain. In the future, the researchers hope to gain more insight into which types of experiences have the largest influences on face preference.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Current Biology.