Beauty depends on who you are with

There is a proverb dating back around 2000 years to the effect that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly, two people can look at another person and find the person attractive while the other finds them ordinary. Yet the variable nature of beauty does not end there because, as a new study has shown, how beautiful you look doesn’t only depend on who is looking at you, it also depends on who you are with.

In this new study, subjects were asked to rate pictures of different faces for attractiveness one at a time. The subjects were then asked to assess the same faces but this time when placed alongside ones that had been judged to be unattractive. Alongside these “distractor” faces, the faces were consistently ranked as being more attractive. That much would be expected but it also gets complicated.

The researchers were then shown two faces rated as attractive alongside one distractor unattractive face. When asked to judge between the two attractive faces in this circumstance, subjects actually became more critical and analytical of the attractive faces. The presence of a distractor face makes differences between attractive faces more obvious and also makes people start to dissect those attractive faces to a greater degree.

So an unattractive face in a crowd doesn’t just make all other faces look better, it makes the viewer more particular in how they judge. The researchers say this just adds to the data showing that attractiveness or Beauty is not a fixed quality but depends on not just who is seeing it, but who they are seeing it next to.

It just goes to prove, yet again, that context is everything.

Source: Psychological Science

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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