Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Well, according to the Discovery Channel documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” it’s not. Science has found a few universal “sexy” qualities that are guaranteed to pique the interest of any person, regardless of time, culture or circumstance.
For those of you looking for a quantitative measure of beauty, behold the golden ratio. Brainchild of the Greeks and muse of countless mathematicians, artists and architects since, this ratio is an irrational mathematical constant that appears in many buildings, paintings and in nature — even the human body. For example, the ideal width between the eyes and the length of the mouth follows this, as does the ideal ratio of a woman’s waist to her hips.
The ideal waist-to-hip ratio for women hovers around 0.7, but studies have shown that smaller ratios are deemed even more attractive. Supposedly, a ratio of 0.5 is even more attractive than 0.6 — yet at 0.5 a woman cannot physically bear a child.
The golden ratio on a man’s body occurs at the shoulders to waist, in support of the so-called “V-shaped torso.” The golden ratios present in the dimensions of both men’s and women’s bodies signal to potential mates that they received enough sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) during adolescence and consequently, are optimal breeding machines.
In both genders, the symmetry of the face spells beauty. Symmetry of the face is determined in the womb and signals — you guessed it — fertility. Scientists have summed up all of these aspects into an equation, and people’s attractiveness can be measured on a universal scale. Score a six and you’re attractive, a seven and you’re a “knockout.”
I suppose a perfect 10 is like most perfect things — unattainable. Interestingly, researchers found that partners frequently end up with someone within a point of their facial attractiveness.
Attractiveness can’t all be aesthetic beauty though, otherwise how else would an almost 70-year-old Mick Jagger attract all those beautiful women?
One study asked 20 people dressed in gender-neutral clothing to pair up with someone they found attractive. While the study found that people pair up with others of similar attractiveness, the effect of status can have a much larger impact on attractiveness than facial symmetry can. A man who scored below a 4.5 on the symmetry test was given a seven, eight and even as high as a 10 by female volunteers on the street — that is, when next to his name was listed an annual salary of $375,000. Likewise, a man who scored a six in symmetry was given only a three or a four by volunteers when revealed that he earned only $25,000 a year. We can see this evolution in action with Hugh Hefner’s recent engagement to a 24-year old.
While women may prioritize status, on a primal level men prioritize attractiveness. Look at any speed-dating service and you’ll notice there is one gender that continuously shows their cards — the males. Women can often tell if a man is interested in them or not, as the most important criteria to the primal male brain can be determined with a quick look to her face and a sweep down her body. Women, on the other hand, must glean the necessary information of status and resourcefulness by showing interest and asking questions. This explains why men may sometimes misinterpret this extra attention as attraction.
Biology might not be able to explain everything (Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood?). But all these scientific findings might help you explain such everyday occurrences, such as when you overhear a girl talking about getting her MRS degree for money rather than love, or when your guy friend needs only to look at a Facebook photo of a girl to declare, “She seems like a good person.” The world of dating may be rough at times, but there’s always biology left to console us.
Stacy Taber is a sophomore in the College. She can be reached at [email protected] The Dating Dalai appears every other Friday in the guide.