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Measuring beauty

by Gale
Tags: beauty, measuring
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Jun22-04, 06:21 PM
hitssquad's Avatar
P: 1,382
Quote Quote by the number 42
a bit of social Darwinism from Magro (1997):

"Why Barbie Is Beautiful. A study of a long series of hominid fossils reveals a progressive loss of some physical attributes and the acquisition of other characteristics. One wonders why evolution has been remodeling the human form in what often seem to be nonadaptive ways. A curious, superficially frivolous test may offer some insights, some of which may be profound.

As with all social Darwinism, what's the evidence?

Furnham, Adrian; Mistry, Disha; McClelland, Alastair. The influence of age of the face and the waist to hip ratio on judgements of female attractiveness and traits. Personality & Individual Differences. Vol 36(5) Mar 2004, 1171-1185.

(from the journal abstract) Various studies have established that the waist to hip ratio (WHR) influences perceptions of female attractiveness. The present study investigated the assumption that ageing of the face will exert a greater influence than WHR in ratings of female attractiveness, when WHR in females is manipulated within the normal range (0.67-0.85). In a within subjects design, 100 participants (mean age 23.4 years) rated 27 photographs on the following scales: youthfulness, attractiveness, fertility, healthiness, fecundity (likelihood of being pregnant), attractive to the opposite sex, a good mother and sexiness. The photographs had been digitally manipulated in terms of three levels of age of the face (young, middle, older: range around 20-40 years) and three levels of WHR (low, medium, high). Regressional analyses indicated that although WHR was found to have a significant influence on all the above attributes, the age of the face was found to have a greater effect. Results are interpreted in terms of age being a sexually selected trait providing potential mates with information concerning phenotypic and genetic quality.

Wade, T. Joel; Irvine, Kristin; Cooper, Marjorie. Racial characteristics and individual differences in women's evaluations of men's facial attractiveness and personality. Personality & Individual Differences. Vol 36(5) Mar 2004, 1083-1092.

(from the journal abstract) Prior research investigating the perception of men's faces has not considered the hybrid nature of black and white racial characteristics. Fifteen faces ranging from "pure" black or white to "hybrid" black and white were rated in the present research. Main effects for race of face were hypothesized. Predominantly black faces were expected to receive higher ratings for dominance and gender identity characteristics. Predominantly white faces were expected to receive the highest attractiveness rating and higher ratings for nurturant and expressive characteristics. The results supported the hypotheses and are discussed in terms of parental investment theory and existing research.

Sugiyama, Lawrence S. Is beauty in the context-sensitive adaptations of the beholder? Shiwiar use of waist-to-hip ratio in assessments of female mate value. Evolution & Human Behavior. Vol 25(1) Jan 2004, 51-62.

The proposition that universal standards of female beauty reflect adaptations for reproductive value assessment does not preclude cross-cultural variation that is contingent on local environmental variation. Cross-cultural tests of the hypothesis that men have adaptations generating preference for low female waist-to-hip ratios (WHR) have used stimuli that were not scaled to local conditions, and have confounded WHR with level of body fat. I present a reassessment of the WHR hypothesis, showing that when effects of WHR and body weight are less confounded, and local environmental context is taken into account, it appears that Shiwiar forager-horticulturist men of Ecuadorian Amazonia may use both WHR and body weight in assessments of female sexual attractiveness in a manner consistent with the prediction of a context-sensitive preference psychology.

Jones, B. C; Little, A. C; Feinberg, D. R; Penton-Voak, I. S; Tiddeman, B. P; Perrett, D. I. The relationship between shape symmetry and perceived skin condition in male facial attractiveness. Evolution & Human Behavior. Vol 25(1) Jan 2004, 24-30.

Studies have shown that male faces high in symmetry are judged more attractive than faces low in symmetry even in images where visual cues to facial symmetry are reduced. These findings suggest that there are correlates of facial symmetry that influence male facial attractiveness independently of symmetry itself. Apparent healthiness of facial skin is one factor that may influence male facial attractiveness and covary with facial symmetry. Here, using real and composite male faces, we found that males with symmetric faces were perceived as having healthier facial skin than males with relatively asymmetric faces (Study 1), and that facial colour and texture cues were sufficient to maintain an attractiveness-symmetry relationship when the influence of facial shape was minimised (Study 2). These findings suggest that colour and texture cues contribute to the relationship between attractiveness and symmetry in real faces.

Olby, Brian Christopher. Perceived attractiveness and personality attributes: A gender and racial analysis. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: the Sciences & Engineering. Vol 63(9-B), 2003, 4420

Subjects rated 12 female body shapes with respect to their physical attractiveness, and the extent to which they would be expected to possess various personality characteristics. The shapes were varied using 3 levels of overall weight and 4 levels of body shapeliness. The sample was modified to control for socioeconomic factors and results are based on 297 undergraduates from Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic racial backgrounds. Loglinear analyses revealed that men and women, regardless of racial background, rated shapely underweight females as most physically attractive, sexy, and ideal for a woman, followed by normal weight figures of similar proportion. African Americans, women in particular, judged the shapely normal weight figures more favorably than the other subjects. Multidimensional scaling and subsequent frequency analyses showed that those figures judged as most attractive, sexy, and ideal were also expected to be fairly emotionally stable, and most successful and interpersonally competitive, but least faithful, kind, and family-oriented. Overweight female shapes, while rated as least physically attractive, sexy, and emotionally stable, were expected to be most family-oriented, kind, and faithful. Shapely normal weight figures were judged to be attractive and sexy, and were assumed to possess a moderate amount of the personality traits in question. The results suggest that Caucasian and Hispanic subjects prefer shapely underweight women, while African Americans, particularly women, find shapely underweight and shapely normal weight women to be physically appealing. African American women also rate shapely normal weight women favorably with respect to personality traits. This perceptual difference may help inoculate them from developing eating disturbances and account for the low prevalence rate of eating disorders in African Americans compared to women of other racial backgrounds. It is suggested that future research identify those beliefs, values or behaviors that seem to inoculate African American women from developing eating disorders. Once identified, mental health professionals may facilitate their development in those women who are likely to have eating problems.

Johnston, Victor S. Female facial beauty: The fertility hypothesis. Pragmatics & Cognition. Vol 8(1) 2000, 107-122.

Notes that prior research on facial beauty has suggested that the average female face in a population is perceived to be the most attractive face. The author argues that this finding, however is based on an image processing methodology that appears to be flawed. An alternative method for generating attractive faces is described and the findings using this procedure are compared with the reports of other experimenters. The results suggest that (1) beautiful female faces are not average, but vary from the average in a systematic manner and (2) female beauty can best be explained by a sexual selection viewpoint, whereby selection favors cues that are reliable indicators of fertility.

Soler, C; Nunez, M; Gutierrez, R; Nunez, J; Medina, P; Sancho, M; Alvarez, J; Nunez, A. Facial attractiveness in men provides clues to semen quality. Evolution & Human Behavior. Vol 24(3) May 2003, 199-207.

Facial attractiveness has been related to health in both men and women. Certain psychological, physiological, and secondary sex characteristics have been used as accurate markers of hormonal and developmental health. The main objective of this study was to investigate the capacity of women to select males of high reproductive quality based on their facial attractiveness. A total of 66 males were included in the study. Each of them provides a semen sample, and frontal and lateral photographs were taken. Semen analysis was made according to standard WHO (1999) guidelines for morphology, motility, and concentration. Moreover, a Sperm Index (SI) was calculated as the principal component of these parameters. In Study 1, 66 women rated the attractiveness, as a possible permanent couple, of pictures of all 66 men. In Study 2, the pictures of a subset of 12 males were randomly selected from three semen quality subgroups (terciles named good, normal, and bad, according to the value of the SI). These 12 pictures were rated on attractiveness by two independent sets of women (N=88 and N=76). Facial attractiveness ratings were significantly (P<.05) and positively correlated with sperm morphology, motility, and SI, but not with concentration, for all the women sets.
Jun22-04, 06:22 PM
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P: 1,382
Van Duuren, Mike; Kendell-Scott, Linda; Stark, Natalie. Early aesthetic choices: Infant preferences for attractive premature infant faces. International Journal of Behavioral Development. Vol 27(3) May 2003, 212-219.

Previous studies have shown that when newborn and young infants are shown attractive and unattractive adult faces they will look longer at the attractive faces. Three studies with infants ranging from 5 months to 15 months were conducted to examine whether this attractiveness effect holds for infants looking at infant faces. A standard preferential looking technique was used in which infants were shown pairs of colour slides of upright (Experiments 1 and 2, n = 16) or inverted (Experiment 3, n = 16) infant faces previously rated by adults for attractiveness. Although Experiment 1 did not reveal an attractiveness effect, this effect did become manifest in Experiment 2 after increasing stimulus exposure time and replacing three of the original stimulus faces. The attractiveness effect was lost when faces were presented upside down. Findings are discussed in relation to the feature-based vs. configural processing debate in the face processing literature and in relation to the notion that attractiveness is based on presexual maturity rather than "cuteness".

Wade, T. Joel. Evolutionary theory and African American self-perception: Sex differences in body-esteem predictors of self-perceived physical and sexual attractiveness, and self-esteem. Journal of Black Psychology. Vol 29(2) May 2003, 123-141.

Evolutionary biological theory has been shown to be relevant to an understanding of how individuals assess others' physical and sexual attractiveness. This research used the Body-Esteem Scale and multiple regression to determine if this theory is also relevant to an understanding of self-perceived physical and sexual attractiveness and self-esteem for a sample of 9l African Americans (aged 18-39 yrs). The hypotheses that regression models of physical and sexual attractiveness would differ within and across sex groups and that models of self-esteem would differ across sex groups in accordance with evolutionary theory were supported. Attributes (if the body related to fecundity and successful mothering characteristics predicted for women and attributes of the body related to strength and dominance predicted for men. In addition, attributes of the body dealing with sexual maturity were stronger predictors of sexual attractiveness for women. This research indicates that evolutionary biological theory can provide relevant insight for an understanding of self-perceived attractiveness and self-esteem for African Americans.

Streeter, Sybil A; McBurney, Donald H. Waist-hip ratio and attractiveness: New evidence and a critique of a "critical test". Evolution & Human Behavior. Vol 24(2) Mar 2003, 88-98.

An evolutionary model of mate choice predicts that humans should prefer honest signals of health, youth, and fertility in potential mates. D. Singh and others have amassed substantial evidence that the waist-hip ratio (WHR) in women is an accurate indicator of these attributes, and proposed that men respond to WHR as an attractiveness cue. In response to a recent study by L. G. Tassinary and K. A. Hansen (1998) that purports to disconfirm D. Singh's hypothesis, we present evidence showing a clear relationship between WHR and evaluations of attractiveness. We evaluated responses of 95 undergraduate students to a range of waist, hip, and chest sizes, spanning the 1st through 99th percentiles of anthropometric data. Waist, hip, and chest sizes were altered independently to give WHRs of 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.9, and 1.2. We replaced line drawings with more realistic computer-manipulated photographs. The preferred WHR was 0.7, concordant with the majority of previous results. By asking participants to estimate weight in each stimulus figure, we were able to statistically control for the effects of weight on attractiveness judgments; the effect of WHR remained.

Ishi, Hanae; Gyoba, Jiro. Analyses of psychological aspects of attractiveness in feminized and juvenilized Japanese faces. Tohoku Psychologica Folia. Vol 60 2001, 29-34.

Averaged Japanese faces were quantitatively transformed into feminized or juvenilized faces by morphing. Fifty-six university students (28 males and 28 females) evaluated the facial attractiveness, and the attractiveness score was compared between the feminized and the juvenilized faces. As a result, for female faces we found that juvenilization was preferred to feminization, while the optimal transformation ratio producing high attractiveness was limited to a narrower range for feminization than for juvenilization. However, there was no large difference between the juvenilized and the feminized faces in male attractiveness. Thus, the present study indicates that feminization and juvenilization have different psychological effects on the attractiveness of female faces in spite of the similarity between the average young adult female face and child face. In contrast, juvenilization and feminization have the same effect on the attractiveness of male faces, while male faces are largely different from female and child faces in both physical and psychological aspects.

Dixson, Alan F; Halliwell, Gayle; East, Rebecca; Wignarajah, Praveen; Anderson, Matthew J. Masculine somatotype and hirsuteness as determinants of sexual attractiveness to women. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Vol 32(1) Feb 2003, 29-39.

Five questionnaire studies asked 685 women to rate the attractiveness of outline drawings of male figures that varied in somatotype, body proportions, symmetry, and in distribution of trunk hair. In Study 1, back-posed figures of mesomorphic (muscular) somatotypes were rated as most attractive, followed by average, ectomorphic (slim), and endomorphic (heavily built) figures. In Study 2, computer morphing of somatotypes to produce an intergraded series resulted in a graded response in terms of perceived attractiveness which mirrored the findings of Study 1. In Study 3, back-posed figures were manipulated in order to change waist-to-hip ratios and waist-to-shoulder ratios. In Study 4, symmetric figures of a mesomorphic somatotype were rated as less attractive than a normal version of the same man. Study 5 showed that presence of trunk hair had a marked, positive effect upon women's ratings of attractiveness for both mesomorphic and endomorphic male figures. Women also judged figures with trunk hair as being older and they consistently rated endomorphic figures as being older than mesomorphs. These results are consistent with effects of sexual selection upon visual signals that advertise health, physical prowess, age, and underlying endocrine condition in the human male.

Konecni, Vladimir J; Cline, Laney E. The 'golden woman': An exploratory study of women's proportions in paintings. Visual Arts Research. Vol 27(2,Issue54) 2001, 69-78.

Examined painters' use of the golden section, that is, the ratio 0.618-to-1, and other proportions when depicting females. 28 female figures painted during the period 1900-1967 were examined concerning the facial ratios of cheekbone width over face length and bi-section at eyebrows, and the body ratios of bisection at the navel and waist to hip. 81 university students (mean ages 21.1 yrs - 23.6 yrs) assessed the age and physical attractiveness of the portrayed females. Results show a strong attractiveness bias in favor of younger female figures. The most attractive figures differed significantly from others in that there was significantly less variability in 3 of the 4 examined ratios. Both the ratios of cheekbone width over face length and the bi-section at the navel were, in line with classical ideals, at the golden section for the most attractive figures, which also displayed significantly less waist-to-hip variability than the rest of the sample. Findings suggest that painting may act as intuitive transmitters of the accumulated cultural wisdom regarding females' proportions, attractiveness, health, and reproductive fitness.
the number 42
Jun23-04, 05:33 AM
P: 494
Quote Quote by hitssquad
Findings suggest that painting may act as intuitive transmitters of the accumulated cultural wisdom regarding females' proportions, attractiveness, health, and reproductive fitness.
Quote Quote by the number 42
Apparently, human males have been selecting their mates for these traits
Nice try, hitsquad. However, the fact that people of many cultures and throughout history have seen characters in the constellations doesn't mean that Orion, the Ursas, Daffy etc are really there.

It may well be true that guys have been unconsiously selecting for Barbie for a long time (and presumably gals select for Ken), but all the abstracts in the world aint gonna prove it. All we end up with is a lot of circumstantial evidence, not a shred of causal evidence. That's what I mean by 'flimsy'.
Jul2-04, 03:20 PM
P: n/a
Landfills are beautiful too.
Jul2-04, 08:01 PM
P: 83
Quote Quote by Gale17
i wonderede whether beauty could be quantified...

There are numerous attempts by sociologists. They're pretty straightforward. And they all show that beauty is a social construction, as everything else is. (At least if you agree with their basic assumption that something like class and social identity does in fact exist). But then you're only measuring "beauty as a social construction". So this is all quite tautological.

If you say that beauty is a purely subjective perception, then you say beauty is a purely subjective perception. Rather tautological too.

You can quantify beauty if you want to quantify it.

All pretty boring, if you ask me :-)
the number 42
Jul3-04, 03:33 AM
P: 494
Quote Quote by shonagon53
There are numerous attempts by sociologists. They're pretty straightforward. And they all show that beauty is a social construction, as everything else is.
If you ask a sociologist about beauty, they may well say its a social construction. If you ask a biologist, they may say its genetic. Ask a painter, they might say its about light and shade. All of these, including biology, can be seen as part of the 'construction' of beauty.

Of course on a personal level, this is purely academic. If I think something is beautiful then I like it whether a sociologist agrees or not. But if we were to consider that beauty consists of some quality beyond the subjective... then we have to agree that it is possible that sometimes when we think a thing is beautiful, we are wrong.
Jul6-04, 03:25 PM
P: 3,715
What if "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" just means that beauty has no meaning, aside from the effect it has on the beholder? I think Monique mentioned this possibility on the first page of this thread.

It's not that something is beautiful because it has this effect, since that still leaves it as an objective phenomenon (albeit, one with a purely subjective effect...the cause is still objective, and thus quantifiable). No, it is that the effect itself -- caused by whatever source, for whatever reason -- is beauty. Note: The effect itself is not beautiful, it is beauty. "Beautiful" would come to mean "having the ability to make one experience beauty", which is not very different from the typical definition of it anyway, is it?

In this case, everything is beautiful (assuming that everything has the ability to make at least one person experience "beauty"), and how beautiful something is is simply a measure of how potent the experience is for the beholder.
Jul6-04, 03:42 PM
P: 8

so many words for what you cant put a finger on.

Mentat basically has it. You must remember that all things have been created from a source (not metaphyisically or anything, they simply are, and do change) and that these things exist objectively since they were created. And yet, produce a subjective effect. That is the paradox in rational terminology.

There is no value to this - when you try and generalize the characteristics of beauty to a is or is not divide, you will not be able to see or understand it until you loose your definition.
the number 42
Jul6-04, 04:23 PM
P: 494
Quote Quote by odersven
....these things exist objectively since they were created. And yet, produce a subjective effect. That is the paradox in rational terminology.
Alcohol exists objectively, and we could argue that it affects each person differently. But it affects people in a more similiar way (e.g. slower reflexes, falling over) in general terms, than a drink like milk or a drink like water i.e. it is catergorically and objectively different. Within that category, alcohol comes in a variety of strengths.

Are 'beautiful' things of a different category than 'drab' things?
Are there degrees of beauty?
If strength of booze is in the gut of the drinker, can you drink a bottle of scotch and be sober?
And finally, if beauty be the booze of love, where's the bar?!
Jul6-04, 06:36 PM
P: 8
that was my point. Beauty in relation to anything is specialized and you cannot formulate a generality to condition beauty.

In plot form, you would have drab as the opposite of beauty. Yet, that would mean that whatever was beautiful to some degree could be defined by its corresponding relation to drab. This is the whole good vs evil argument. If something is not entirely good, or as good as something else, then it is composed of some evil. It is a stupid argument. So, I would say there is no degree to beauty because beauty is not a moral vice, it transgresses it.

When you observe (not experience) something in an analytical manner and try and measure the "beauty" of something, you are automatically objectifying what you are observing and cannot experience the beauty is presents because beauty is a subjective reaction of the experienced.

Analytical anything cannot translate emotions. That is why you would automatically fail in your attempt to quantitize beauty.

There is no definite now, only what is plausible. You cannot know where an electron will be all the time, and you cannot know the character of beauty all the time.
Jul6-04, 07:00 PM
P: 83
Here's a famous and interesting sociological exercise in measuring "beauty" as it exists as a social fact.

Pierre Bourdieu's "La Distinction" has been translated as "Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste".

It's probably the most thorough and most quoted work on beauty in the social sciences and in psychology. In 1998, the work was voted by members of the International Sociological Association to be the third most important sociological treatise of the 20th century. Whatever that means...

Just for your information. :-)

[I know this is not an argument, but sometimes info should suffice. I just think the matter is too complex to be discussed on a message board.]
the number 42
Jul7-04, 05:33 AM
P: 494
Quote Quote by odersven
... you would have drab as the opposite of beauty. Yet, that would mean that whatever was beautiful to some degree could be defined by its corresponding relation to drab. This is the whole good vs evil argument. If something is not entirely good, or as good as something else, then it is composed of some evil. It is a stupid argument. So, I would say there is no degree to beauty because beauty is not a moral vice, it transgresses it.
Perhaps beauty is qualitatively different to drab i.e. they exist not on a dimension, but as separate categories, as much as things can be considered separate. And that one is not good nor the other evil. Drab is evil? I need to exorcise my wardrobe! I think we can fairly leave good vs evil arguments well alone.

Even if we can't percieve it objectively in all its wonder - as we filter everything through our limited senses - perhaps it does exist out there, in the real world. But if you are suggesting that we cannot measure beauty, and that's all there is too it, then we have come to the end of an otherwise interesting thread.

And thanks for the reference, but I hope I don't have to buy a book to have a discussion on Physics Forums - I'd be broke within a week
Jul13-04, 01:46 PM
P: 217
There are many differnt kinds of beauty. A friend once told me beauty exist for our survival. So i thought more on that and agreed. What we see as beautiful will most likly be preserved and treasured. Like gold, diamonds, roses, cats, dogs, nature, babies of all types of animals and humans. Mating is a part of survial also and we all have differnt personalitys so it makes sense that our sense of beauty may differ also. Humans don't need to fight over mates like animals altough some do. Humans are more likly to find thier mate by enojying thier personality and/or looks.
Jul13-04, 07:11 PM
P: 83
Quote Quote by the number 42
And thanks for the reference, but I hope I don't have to buy a book to have a discussion on Physics Forums - I'd be broke within a week
It's called a library card.
Jul14-04, 01:59 AM
P: 6
Quote Quote by Gale17
Can beauty be measured? in any way shape or form? even if its subjective to one person's ideas... can it still be measured? Or is beauty an abstract sort of thing that one cannot put a value on?
Why does the west always get into such things. Just relax and enjoy ! Why do u have to measure anything like beauty.
Catterpillar turns into a butterfly. If a catterpillar was not beautiful, how would butterfly trun out to be beautiful.
Jul14-04, 06:38 AM
P: 83
Quote Quote by wtfc
Why does the west always get into such things. Just relax and enjoy ! Why do u have to measure anything like beauty.
Catterpillar turns into a butterfly. If a catterpillar was not beautiful, how would butterfly trun out to be beautiful.
You do have a point about the West's obsession with measuring everything. This morning I received not less than 4 e-mails promising me an easy and cheap way of adding at least 2 inches there where Western man thinks it's important!
One of the e-mails included a detailed chart showing the different sizes of different races. It was called "Size Matters. Don't make your girlfriend go black. She'll never come back!"

You truly have a point.
Jul14-04, 06:21 PM
P: 579
Beauty has only one definition......

It is an ability to overcome, or raise oneself above, all causal and relational laws of nature!
the number 42
Jul15-04, 03:09 AM
P: 494
Quote Quote by wtfc
If a catterpillar was not beautiful, how would butterfly trun out to be beautiful.
Is potential for beauty the same as beauty? Is potential for intelligence (foetus) the same as possessing intelligence (adult boffin)?

I've got to be honest, wtfc; if you honestly think - on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level - that a maggot is equal in beauty to a butterfly, I would be very hestitant to see how you decorate your living room.

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