“Whether you're dating, job seeking, or running for office, an attractive face can get you far. But what makes a face attractive? Most studies have found we’re drawn to “average” faces, as well as those whose features fit conventionally with one gender or the other- “masculinity” in men, “femininity” in women. Except, that is, when we’re drawn to “feminine” male faces- or our reactions are mixed.
Psychologists Christopher P. Said of New York University and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University surmised that attractiveness is more complex than those two qualities. So they designed a computer model to tease out and measure the complexities. Their findings, published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, help resolve the contradictions in earlier research and enrich our understanding of what draws people to each other.
Even the attraction of “average” faces turned out to be less straightforward than previously found. Both men and women deemed average faces attractive, but the most average were not the most attractive.
The authors caution that the study has limitations. An artificial face isn’t the same as a real face. Also, raters differ, and their conclusions reflect only the opinions of a few dozen college students. So a computer program can pinpoint the attractiveness of an artificial face in theoretical space. But beauty is still in the eyes of the unique human beholder.”