Credit: Amanda Dalbjorn via Unsplash

Universal beauty does not exist, finds Glasgow study

By Lucy Dunn

Researchers find that different cultures hold different beauty ideals.

A study led by the University of Glasgow researchers contradicts theories of universal beauty. 

Research carried out at Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology contradicts the common belief that there is a universal perceived attractiveness. The study was published at the start of the month in Current Biology and analysed individual preferences for attractive faces in two cultures: Western European and East Asian. It found that whilst being facial attractive equates to “considerable advantages in social interactions”, the different cultures and individuals within those cultures held different beauty ideals.

The study used computers to generate a variety of young female faces with “naturally varying shapes and complexions, and from a mix of ethnicities” before asking two groups of 40 young male participants, one group Western European and the other East Asian, to evaluate each of the generated faces on their attractiveness. Following on from this assessment, the researchers then modelled facial features that “drive attractiveness within each cultural group”. 

Professor Philippe Schyns, the study’s author, stated: “Our results have direct theoretical and methodological impact for representing diversity in social perception, and for the design of culturally and ethnically sensitive socially interactive digital agents”. The paper is titled Modelling individual preferences reveals that face beauty is not universally perceived across cultures and can be found in Current Biology.


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