Have you ever wondered why you and your boyfriend both love avocado toast and bush walking? It may not be such a coincidence after all.
According to a recent study called Individual aesthetic preferences for faces are shaped mostly by environments, not genes, your environment may be calling the shots in your love life, not you.
It’s discovered that based on our life experiences, humans are more likely to be physically attracted to someone who shares similar though patterns and interests.
The study was jointly conducted by scientists from America and Western Australia, all of who are currently researching psychology and human behaviour. The research aim, in layman’s terms, was to discover the science behind the old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
To collect data, 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-sex, non-identical twins, were asked to rate the attractiveness of 200 faces between one (very unattractive) and seven (very attractive). The results highlighted that who we find more or less attractive is personal and differs. It may seem obvious, but now it can be scientifically measured and explained: a person’s face preference or type can be due to our unique personal environments. Because gene strands are special and exclusive to sole individuals, it can also explain why we process faces differently.
“The large impact of experience on individual face preferences provides a novel window into the evolution and architecture of the social brain, while lending new empirical support to the long-standing claim that environments shape individual notions of what is attractive,” according to the study.
Dr Laura Germine from Harvard University, who was the study’s lead researcher, told The Newsroom, “We inferred a contribution of individual environments from the fact that even identical twins were not that similar to each other in their attractiveness judgements, and since identical twins share 100 per cent of their genes and family environment, the only thing that could explain that difference is variations in their individual environments.” She explained the environments tested were, “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.”
The results were conclusive, Dr Germine said: “Our findings support the notion that individual aesthetic face preferences are truly shaped primarily by individual life experiences.”
The study found that in most cases, however, people would agree about general attractiveness based on someone’s facial symmetry. As a result, the study states, “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.” This aspect of the study confirms that ‘types’ is not just an illusion; symmetry can make for general attractiveness, but personal environments can make someone irresistible – ever heard of tall, dark and handsome?
The basis of human attractiveness and types has been scientifically reasoned, but appearances, no matter how attractive, is not everything.
Dr Lauren Sokolski, a relationship counsellor with her own clinic in Melbourne, told The Newsroom that relationships “should be more about the connection than simply determining whether someone is attractive or ugly”. She believes that people are likely to be initially drawn to others based on their physical appearance, and develop a deeper, more meaningful connection once they get to know each other better. “Initially there is often a sexual attraction, and this usually takes precedence over any emotional connection. Instead, they often create a friendship with people close to them that eventually progresses over time,” she said.
Dr Sokolski believes that for two people to have a “deep connection”, they need to be interested in the other person on an emotional level: “They should be able to share how they feel about themselves, each other, other people in their lives, family and work… If the relationship is superficial, just chit chat about nothing significant, joking and mucking around, whilst these are important parts of any relationship, they don’t necessarily make for a meaningful connection.” She also warned that couples should think before blindly jumping into marriage, thinking it’s the next logical step for their relationship: “People jump into marriage when they convince themselves the other person is the right one for them if they are feeling left behind (all their friends are getting married and they may feel time is running out for them).”
Although it is important in a relationship for the couple to be able to identify with one another, Dr Sokolski said they also need to have a good sense of who they are themselves. “Beginning relationships usually foster a lot of dependence on each other but over time, a healthy relationship becomes about inter-dependence.” A good, healthy relationship comes down to being open and connected with your partner, “respect, communication, honesty/transparency, the ability to trust your partner and know that they are there for you no matter what” are fundamental aspects of having a long and happy life with that special someone. Also “humour, fun, play, having shared goals and dreams” contribute to a healthy relationship.
“(Young couples should) take their time to get to know each other and develop as people before rushing into a committed relationship,” Dr Sokolski advised. When people rush commitment and jump into large life decisions, such as living together early in the relationship, unnecessary pressure is put on the developing relationship, which can result in the person losing who they really are to become a mere extension of their partner. Instead, Dr Sokolski suggested not “making decisions about your future when you are in the early stages of a relationship, where the sexual attraction and desire to be in each other’s pockets is so strong.” She urges people to maintain their personal space, and not become dangerously connected or reliant on your partner. – Megan Simmonds
Top photo by Sarah Allen.