Measuring beauty

  1. 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?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. If we can DEFINE beauty, then we must have somehow measured it, or we could not differentiate between it and it's opposite... But whether or not we can measure different LEVELS of beauty, hmmm... I'll have to think on that a bit more.
     
  4. Which kind of beauty? Outward appearance? Personality? Artistic quality? Mysteriousness, inspiring further inspection? What exactly are you referring to?
     
  5. I think there are probably some basic physical factors which evolution decided are beautiful. Clear, healthy skin; good teeth; the ability to reproduce; possibly material wealth, as it shows the ability to feed offspring.

    However, a girl can be built like a supermodel and have a billion dollars, and if she is a complete moron, very rude, or a diseased hooker, I won't want anything to do with her.

    In other words, looks can generate some physical chemistry, but it doesn't matter if their is no mental or emotional connection.

    Physical attraction is not necessarily the first attraction. I know people who have been attracted to each other's personalities first, from chatting on the net. Two are now married.

    Of course beauty doesn't have to be about attraction and pairing-off at all. People look at two-dimensional images of people, mere reflections of light off surfaces, and see beauty. This would also be based on those evolutionary things though.

    Or we might consider a sunset beautiful, but this has nothing at all to do with sex, or personalities, or those other things. We just like certain mixtures of colour, brightness, tone, et cetera. Sounds and smells, too, we can consider beautiful. Tactile sensations. All our senses are capable of appreciating beauty, as is the mind.

    As for how we measure it all... I think it is different for everyone, although we do have influences in our judgement from evolution.
     
  6. Monique

    Monique 4,700
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    You can monitor someone's reaction, when sitting in a monitored environment, and relate that to perceived beauty. Dilatation of the pupil, sweating, smiling, maybe certain brain patterns.
     
  7. I agree, but the difficulty here is that beauty is defined differently by different observers. It is entirely subjective.

    However, to some extent you could catalog certain traits (whether in flowers, artwork, or people) that are held to be beautiful, but even then you don't have a universal definition. Everyone would have a different hierarchy in these common traits (person A likes shiny hair, small noses, then big eyes; person B likes big eyes, small noses, and shiny hair).

    I think the best answer is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
     
  8. Njorl

    Njorl 875
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    I remember seeing a presentation about pattern recognition. As an aside, the guy did some studies about beauty.

    He just studied faces. The judgements were purely subjective. He had a random group of people rate faces for beauty on a 1-10 scale. He then chose a few quantitative characteristics, seperation of eyes, width of mouth, height of cheekbones etc, and tried to correlate them to the beauty ratings. He then found averages for all these quantitative factors. What he found was that the better than average beauty scores tended to be close to the averages in these factors. The low beauty scores tended to be far from these averages. But, the most interesting fact, the very highest beauty marks also went to people who were far from the average quantative factors.

    People who look "normal" tend to be attractive, but beautiful people look different.
     
  9. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    A fact known to Shakespeare. "There is no Beauty but has some strangeness i' the proportion".
     
  10. "You can monitor someone's reaction, when sitting in a monitored environment, and relate that to perceived beauty. Dilatation of the pupil, sweating, smiling, maybe certain brain patterns."

    If you really want to gague reaction to beauty, at least in men, there's a pretty obvious thing you can monitor that you left out...
     
  11. I think it can only be measured subjectively, no way else. Different people will have different opinions, as stated by Njorl. Everyone has their own little "kinkiness" to them when they find some beautifule. Its something that they can describe, and only them. The explain it to someone, but that someone won't understand fully because their beautiful interpretation would be different, even marginally.
     
  12. well... i actually hadn't meant beauty in people, but more like... a flower... or a rainbow... or say, given two paths to follow, and you were told to chose only by one's beauty and looks...

    as a kid, and now i see in a few books i've read... well, white light... Auras too... they seem to be sort of metaphysical ways of determining beauty... to an extent. I don't mean to ask if these things hold any value or meaning in that context, but just... because of them, i wonderede whether beauty could be quantified...
     
  13. Njorl

    Njorl 875
    Science Advisor

    I think, if I tried to pick one of the things that I find consistant to beauty, it would be ... hm... hard to express ... that something be the epitome of it's kind. It is hard though, to epitomize something without going to far ... to a charicature. The water in a quarry near where I live is so clear that it suprises me everytime I see it. It is the epitome of water.

    Simplicity too is beautiful. When form and function go hand-in-hand with a minimal effort, in a natural way ... without being cut-down and forced into simplicity. My swivel handled socket wrench is beautiful.

    Njorl
     
  14. A way of measuring beauty? I think an answer to that might be more profound than how the universe started :) It's probably best to try explaining an area of aesthetics such as music. And then split this up further to explain one aspect of music; what makes a good chord?

    Question: Why is the chord C#, F#, B, Eb, F#, Bb, much, much better than C#, F#, C, Eb, G, Bb ?

    Here are some more bad chords: C#, F, C, Eb, F#, Bb, ....or this one.... D, F#, B, Eb, F, C
    Here are some more good chords: C (in the bass followed by) Bb C D F G and A .... or: C Bb C# E G and A

    All you have to do is work out exactly why the good chords are better. Once you've done that, try the countless two chord combinations, and then the multitudes of three chord combinations etc. etc. Find a logical pattern to distinguish them scientifically, work out a multi-dimensional rating system, and you're half way there! Presumably, there would be chords and chord sequences which are excellent (even perfect), very poor/boring, and everything in between.

    Yes, an element of subjectivity would come into it, but as long as practically everyone agrees on whether a chord is good/bad (and in the examples I gave above, I believe they would), then we can try to find out the pattern behind it. That's a start.

    The same principle could be applied to pictures too. Imagine a long one-dimensional 100-pixel black and white 'picture'. Hundreds of people could rate thousands of these randomly generated 'pictures'. Because each picture is relatively abstract, there would be little room for cultural bias. On the average, I believe we could establish a general consensus on the 'scores' for such pictures.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2004
  15. jimmy p

    jimmy p 580
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    The problem is that everyone has different views on beauty. One mans object of desire could be another's roadkill. Beauty can really only be measured in a persons mind, on what THEY judge as beautiful.
     
  16. Well, you know forms? wouldn't it seem that things closest to their true forms would appear more beautiful to us?
     
  17. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    This is what Plato taught. For me there is a problem about the form of a person. Is it the case that each of us, say John Doe, has a form, and the closer to the form we are, the more beautiful we are? But some people are "prettyness challenged" from birth - are they far from their own form, or not?

    For example, Socrates, Plato's teacher, was not a handsome man, but Plato believed him to be very close to his ideal form, and later generations have agreed, he was as close as ancient Greek culture came to a saint. So evidently the beauty that comes from matching your form is not PURELY physical beauty. It is like beauty of total personhood, inhabiting your own body in a beautiful way.
     
  18. jimmy p

    jimmy p 580
    Gold Member

    the band Marillion think Autumn is beautiful...or maybe i should read between the lines...

    MARILLION - BEAUTIFUL

    Everybody knows we live in a world
    Where they give bad names to beautiful things
    Everybody knows we live in a world
    Where we don't give beautiful things a second glance
    Heaven only knows we live in a world
    Where what we call beautiful is just something on sale
    People laughing behind their hands
    As the fragile and the sensitive are given no chance

    And the leaves turn from red to brown
    To be trodden down
    To be trodden down
    And the leaves turn from red to brown
    Fall to the ground
    Fall to the ground

    We don't have to live in a world
    Where we give bad names to beautiful things
    We should live in a beautiful world
    We should give beautiful a second chance

    And the leaves fall from red to brown
    To be trodden down
    Trodden down
    And the leaves turn green to red to brown
    Fall to the ground
    And get kicked around

    You strong enough to be
    Have you the courage to be
    Have you the faith to be
    Honest enough to stay
    Don't have to be the same
    Don't have to be this way
    C'mon and sign your name
    You wild enough to remain beautiful?
    Beautiful

    And the leaves turn from red to brown
    To be trodden down
    Trodden down
    And we fall green to red to brown
    Fall to the ground
    But we can turn it around

    You strong enough to be
    Why don't you stand up and say
    Give yourself a break
    They'll laugh at you anyway
    So why don't you stand up and be
    Beautiful

    Black, white, red, gold, and brown
    We're stuck in this world
    Nowhere to go
    Turnin' around
    What are you so afraid of?
    Show us what you're made of
    Be yourself and be beautiful
    Beautiful
     
  19. well again, i suppose i rather think of people as sort of exceptions, and i really don't mean human beauty. what makes certain flowers beautiful? or paths? or things like that. i don't have an opinion yet on forms, but if such things were true, then it'd seem that it'd make sence that beauty could be based on somethings resemblance of a form. Perhaps forms have more aspects than even just physical ones. I'm not even sure what the textbook definition of forms would be.

    and as far as socrates being a saint... pfft...
     
  20. I recall that symmetry is an important factor in perceived beauty, as it is in sports overall.

    A study I saw on TV developed a facsimile, including green eyes, from an international average of superlative female beauty traits. Can anyone find "her" on the net?
     
  21. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    Socrates said, Be what you want others to think you are. If you want to pass for rich, don't fake it, do the work and get rich. Same with being good, or I guess, being beautiful.
     
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